Where: Dowdy Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, NC
When: Saturday, October 1st, 8:00 PM
TV: CBS Sports Network
Records: UNC 3-1; ECU 1-2
Earlier in this week in Dick Baddour's office
Everett Withers: Dick, I need to talk to you about something.
Dick Baddour: Go ahead.
Withers: I don't believe a game against ECU is a fair test of my coaching abilities.
Baddour: And why not?
Withers: There is no way to win...
Baddour: A no-win scenario is a possibility every head coach may face. Has that never occurred to you?
Withers: No, it has not.
Baddour: How we deal with ECU is at least as important as how we deal with NC State, wouldn't you say?
Withers: As I said, I hadn't thought of that.
Baddour: Suck it up Everett, I hung this game around the program's neck for two more years on my way out the door so if you get the job you'll have to deal with it.
Apologies to Gene Rodenberry and everyone associated with Star Trek II.
UNC heads to Greenville for yet another game in the Kobyashi Maru series. For UNC this game is misery if they lose and only of marginal benefit if the Heels win. What's more UNC and ECU have agreed to renew the series for the next two years. Woo-hoo. I can hardly wait.
The last time UNC paid a visit to ECU it was a Saturday night as well and the Heels lost during Butch Davis' first season as head coach. Since then UNC has taken care of business against their little brother avoiding the annoying gloating that NC State fans had to endure last year. Despite UNC being a six point favor on the road, this will be a tough game. ECU gave Virginia Tech all they wanted a week after South Carolina be them by 20 and putting up 56 points. Add to the hyped nature of this game, it can be assumed the Pirates will make this a very tough game. The key phrase for UNC here will be poise. Georgia Tech's crowd will look like a polo crowd compared to the raucous behavior we will see from ECU fans.
A quick look at the numbers says UNC's offense will lean heavily on the run and when I say heavily it should mean doing it incessantly from start to finish. ECU has the 97th run defense in the country but is ranked 17th versus the pass. You do the math. If UNC is not running the ball down ECU's throat I am going to be sorely disappointed. Yes, UNC should throw in some pass plays when the opportunity presents itself but anything short Gio Bernard, Ryan Houston or A.J. Blue running hog wild on these guys will be considered a gross mismanagement on the part of John Shoop and the coaching staff.
On the defensive side, ECU is average at passing the ball and one of the worst in the country running it. On that basis, UNC should spend very little time paying attention to the run and focus on the pass. Which doesn't mean dropping eight and rushing three. UNC should continue to bring pressure on the QB regardless of how much ECU passes the football because that is the only thing which will give the Tar Heel secondary a fighting chance. Thus far, bad things happen if the UNC secondary is hung out to dry too long during the course of the play. Coverages break down fairly quickly and if the front seven can spend a fair amount of time disrupting the pocket, so much the better.
For UNC to get to nine wins, this is a must-win game. It's a must-win game anyway because no one wants to lose to ECU for a variety of reasons. With the Heels facing an awful Louisville team next week, there is a legitimate shot at being 5-1 facing the final six games of the ACC schedule. But even without all of that, this is a rivalry game. Not the rivalry game but a rival nonetheless. Everett Withers said as much this week, let's hope UNC plays like it.
UNC 38 ECU 30