Walking The Plank: Previewing The UCF-ECU Matchup

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Walking The Plank: Previewing The UCF-ECU Matchup
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

To watch a video podcast of this breakdown, click here.

Coming off a comeback victory over Buffalo Saturday, the UCF football team will face many challenges when they hit the road this weekend to take on East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C at 3:30 p.m.

The match up

After a 23-17 win over the Bulls, the Knights (2-1) now head north to take on East Carolina (1-2).

UCF registered 218 yards of offense in the second half against Buffalo, and forced four turnovers to erase a 10 point lead. UCF quarterback Brett Hodges accounted for 212 yards of offense in the game, both in the air and on the ground, while running back Brynn Harvey rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

East Carolina will kick off their Conference USA schedule against UCF after dropping its last two games to West Virginia and North Carolina. ECU fell 31-17 to the Tar Heels last week, behind North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates’ two touchdown passes.

UCF will win if…

They don’t let ECU get out to an early lead.

The Pirates have scored first in their last six games, and haven’t been on the losing end early in a game since Nov. 22, 2008 when they trailed 7-0 to UAB. They have a combined four touchdowns in the opening quarter through three games this season and have had success in the first half, averaging 20.3 points.

The ability to stop the Pirates comes in the second half, where they have scored just five points all season. They have averaged just 91.3 yards per game in the second half of games this year.

ECU will win if…

They dominate the game clock.

ECU has held the ball for an average of 28:06 minutes this season, including a 30:46 mark in the loss to North Carolina. The Knights are not built to score quickly, having several scoring drives of over eight minutes at times in games.

Head coach George O’Leary likes to play grind-it-out football, and dominate time of possession. If the Pirates can control the line of scrimmage and get their run game on track, the Knights will have a long day ahead of them.

The Pirates will also need to force UCF into turnovers. In the eight games they have played against each other, ECU has forced the Knights into 26 total turnovers, with 19 of those being interceptions. This season, ECU is plus-two in the turnover category.

The last time they played…

ECU defeated the Knights in overtime 13-10 at Bright House Networks Stadium to take a 7-1 lead in the series.

UCF quarterback Michael Greco was intercepted by Emanuel Davis on the Knights’ first play of overtime, setting up Ben Hartman’s 39-yard game-winning field goal. That loss was the first against a conference opponent at Bright House Networks Stadium for UCF.

The Pirates held UCF to just 59 total yards in the third, fourth, and overtime and forced them into three turnovers. ECU registered 17 first downs as compared to UCF’s 12.

Keep an eye out for…

The amount of times Hodges runs the football. He carried the ball 13 times for 71 yards and looked good escaping the pocket. After the game, he talked about being sore and that it was uncanny for him to run the football that many times. O’Leary didn’t intend for him to carry that kind of a load.

It will be interesting to see whether O’Leary and the coaching staff has inserted some designed runs for Hodges, especially after he was able to pick up key yardage when the team needed it.

Also watch ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney. The sixth-year senior has thrown for 463 yards this season, three touchdown passes and has been very successful in the past. He has passed for 4,496 yards and has completed 391 passes in his career, ranking in the top-5 all-time at ECU.

Pinkney was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA on Jan. 23, 2009 after missing the entire 2005 season with a shoulder injury. He has thrown a touchdown pass in seven straight games dating back to the UAB game in 2008.

Noteworthy

Saturday’s match-up between UCF and ECU will take place in front of a sell-out crowd of close to 43,000. In the last two meetings, dating back to Nov. 2, 2008 and Oct. 6, 2007, both teams have averaged over 40,000 fans in both Greenville and Orlando.

Listen to Ryan's radio show, The Sports Report with Ryan Bass, every Tuesday from 4-6 p.m. on WKNT radio. Check out the home of the site: www.thesportsreportonline.com.

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