The ECU Pirates have settled into the Big Easy. They have had 2 days of practice to prepare themselves for Louisiana-Lafayette. The R and L Carrier Bowl will certainly be similar to a home game for the Ragin’ Cajun’s. Success on the road has been something of a treasure hunt for the Pirates. This season they have gone 3-3 in 6 road games and are looking to get over that .500 mark, as a visiting team, with a win against Louisiana-Lafayette. In order to accomplish this the Pirates will need quarterback Shane Carden to continue his solid play this season.
Shane Carden came into 2012 as the #2 quarterback behind the departed Rio Johnson. Carden leads an offense that was dynamic in the last 7 games of the season generating nearly 3,300 yards, including a staggering 600 yards versus the Blazers of UAB. Carden himself accounted for 29 of 41 offensive touchdowns including leading the team in rushing scores with 8. He set a single game passing yards record for the Pirates with a 439 yard performance against Marshall. In that game he also completed 38 passes on just 47 attempts, (80.9%), which was good for 3rd best completion percentage all time at East Carolina. Carden must continue to be efficient on third downs. The Pirates have been good this season on third down conversions, ranking 39th in the NCAA with a 44% conversion rate. They can help themselves immensely by staying out of 3rd and longs. They should be able to accomplish this by making good use of Vintavious Cooper.
Cooper is responsible for over 60% of the Pirate ground game this season. He is the 1st Pirate to cross the 1,000 yard barrier since 2009 and leads the team in total yards. The Pirates would benefit tremendously if Cooper is able to maintain his season’s per carry average of 5.4 yards. Running the ball should be a key part of Lincoln Riley’s game plan versus the Ragin’ Cajuns. The Cajun’s defense ranked a respectable 43rd in the NCAA against the run. So the task my be easier said than done. Regardless of the level of success of the run game, the offense needs to run the ball to prevent the Cajuns defense from selling out against the pass. When the Pirates do pass the ball, Carden needs to make sure he targets #2 Justin Hardy.
Hardy, a super sophomore, leads the team in receiving yards with 1,046 and was 2nd on the team in total yards behind the a fore mentioned Mr. Cooper. Carden connected with Hardy on the longest play from scrimmage this season, a 76 yard scoring strike against the Black Knights of Central Florida. Hardy was clearly the favorite of target of Carden this season. He managed to grab 83 receptions, the most by far of any receiver on the team. His nearest teammate had 50 less receptions.
I believe the game will be a shootout. It will be a lot of fun to watch. The game could come down to field position and special teams play. One small statistic, the Ragin’ Cajuns rank 57th in penalties while the Pirates are tied for the 19th position in the same category. So team discipline could be a factor as well. Just something to think about while watching the game.
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