East Carolina Game Guide
Get ready for Carolina's trip to Greenville with the Game Guide.
Sept. 6, 2007
By Lauren Brownlow
Every Thursday, check TarHeelBlue.com for the latest edition of the Game Guide, which provides all the information you need to get ready for gameday.
North Carolina (1-0) will travel to Greenville to face East Carolina (0-1) in the first road game of the season and the first home game for the Pirates. The Tar Heels got out to their first 1-0 start since 2004, beating James Madison 37-14 last Saturday. East Carolina lost to Virginia Tech 17-7 in Blacksburg last weekend in a hard-fought, emotional game. The Pirates led 7-3 until late in the second quarter when the Hokies returned an ECU interception returned for a touchdown to give Virginia Tech the lead for good. Carolina has won just six road games in its last 22 tries dating back to 2003 and a victory at East Carolina in 2003 was one such win. The Tar Heels have not won their first road game of the year since a 30-22 win at Syracuse in 2002.
Game Time: North Carolina at East Carolina, 6:00 PM, CSTV.
Last Time: Carolina beat East Carolina in Greenville 28-17 on October 11, 2003. The Tar Heels were trailing 10-7 at the half but came back to score three touchdowns in the second half while holding East Carolina to a scoreless third quarter. Darian Durant was 15-of-25 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions while Ronnie McGill and Jacque Lewis led the Tar Heels in rushing with 67 yards apiece. Chad Scott added 43 yards and a touchdown and led the Tar Heels in receiving with three catches for 63 yards. Both Jon Hamlett and Mike Mason also had touchdown catches for the Tar Heels.
It was Carolina's first win of 2003 and one of just two wins all season as the Tar Heels finished 2-10. The win brought Carolina's all-time record against ECU to 8-1-1. It was Carolina's first trip to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and the Tar Heels faced a crowd of 44,040, which still stands as the third-largest in school history.
Gameday Weather: Check the local weather forecast before heading for the game.
Injury Report: Starting center Scott Lenahan strained his calf during the game and is expected to play. Linebacker Chase Rice injured his ankle against James Madison and the injury will require season-ending surgery. Junior offensive lineman Ben Lemming's career was ended by a nagging right shoulder injury that he has had two surgeries on. Junior offensive tackle Wyatt Hicks has been plagued by persistent knee problems and his career at Carolina is also over. Senior defensive lineman Kyndraus Guy is still working his way back from a knee injury suffered last season but played last week.
Radio Coverage: Tar Heel Sports Network coverage begins at 5:00. The radio broadcast is also available on XM Channel 191 at 6:00.
TV Coverage: The game will be shown on CSTV. A pay-per-view online broadcast is also available; All-Access subscribers will receive the game free.
Game week TV/radio coverage: The Butch Davis Radio Show will be broadcast live from the Top of the Hill restaurant on Franklin Street every Thursday at 7:00. Inside the Huddle with Butch Davis airs Saturday morning at 9 a.m. on FOX Sports, 10 a.m. on MASN and 11 a.m. on WTVD in the Triangle. The Tar Heel Rewind show featuring highlights of the previous week's games will air Tuesday's at 7 p.m. and Thursday's at 8 p.m. in the Triangle and Fayetteville.
Carolina's offensive line vs. East Carolina's strong defensive line: The bright spot of last week's performance by Carolina's offensive line was its pass protection. The line practiced picking up blitzes for 20-25 minutes a day throughout the week leading up to the season-opener, and that preparation showed. T.J. Yates was not sacked at all and was hurried just once. Carolina was one of just 15 teams in the country and one of just two ACC teams to not allow a single quarterback sack.
If there was any cause for concern after the James Madison game, it was the Carolina running game. The Tar Heels gained 100 yards on 34 rushing attempts (2.9 yards per carry) with redshirt freshman Johnny White leading the way with 12 attempts for 50 yards. The running back by committee will continue this week; all three running backs are inexperienced and it will take time for them to develop the instincts and field vision to find and attack holes more quickly. However, James Madison's eight-man front made it more difficult to run the ball than it might normally be and rather than continue to exploit that defense with big pass plays late in the game, Coach Davis said it was more prudent for the coaching staff to see what the young running backs can do.
The Carolina offensive line will face a potent early test in East Carolina's defensive line. For much of the Pirates' first game, its defensive line manhandled the offensive line of Virginia Tech and held the Hokies to just 33 net rushing yards. The defense held ACC Player of the Year candidate Brandon Ore to just 70 yards rushing and all other rushing attempts by the Hokies resulted in negative 38 yards. Quarterback Sean Glennon was sacked four times, threw an interception and was hurried four times. The Pirates also recorded ten tackles for loss, a figure that ranks eighth-best in the country.
"I think everybody is pretty familiar with how successful that Virginia Tech over their history has been in running the football. They've got a really super-talented running back and East Carolina really gave them fits as far as running the football. All you have to do is just look at the stats that Virginia Tech had and the struggles that they had," Davis said. "You can just tell that their (East Carolina's) front seven is big, they're athletic, they're physical, and they're hard to move. They present an enormous challenge for our offensive line, tight ends and fullbacks."
Continuing the momentum of the Carolina defense's strong start: With the exception of two touchdown drives (one late in the game against second- and third-string Carolina defenders), the Carolina defense held James Madison's offense in check. The Tar Heels allowed just 100 yards through the air (2nd in the ACC) and 250 yards of total offense (4th in the ACC). Carolina is one of only four ACC teams to have a turnover margin of over +1.00 (three gained, two lost) and one of only five teams to gain three or more turnovers.
As expected, the Tar Heels' deep and talented defensive line played very well against James Madison. Everything starts with the defensive line as controlling the line of scrimmage allows the linebackers and secondary to fly to the ball more freely, and the line did their job very well.
"It's much easier, because that's what I'm built to do. I'm a good athlete myself. I can run very well and they make my job a whole lot easier by keeping the offensive linemen off," linebacker and last week's leading tackler Durell Mapp said.
However, Carolina and Virginia Tech were the only two ACC teams to fail to record a sack. Carolina recorded six tackles for loss last week and will face the same offensive line that Virginia Tech struggled so much against as the Hokies recorded an ACC-worst two tackles for loss. Carolina also allowed 150 yards rushing which is ninth in the ACC and the only ranking that looks similar to Carolina's defense last season.
"I think we'll continue to get better. We made some mistakes, clearly. They had some success pulling the ball out and running. Guys were biting a little bit, getting a little bit nosy and sticking their nose in, thinking that the ball had gotten handed off and we ended up with two guys on the dive and nobody on the quarterback and the pitch. So we've got to continue to get better at that and be a little bit more disciplined," Davis said.
Carolina will face an East Carolina offense that Davis said would look similar to that of James Madison, but with better football players. James Madison quarterback Rodney Landers had some success running the ball against Carolina with 14 attempts for 71 yards (5.1 a carry), including a long run of 22 yards.
"When someone has some success against you doing anything, you had better find an answer for it because people are such great copycats. They're going to exploit any weaknesses that we had. We're going to have to do a good job as coaches and as a team fixing some of those things. You want to try to put those fires out as quickly as possible," Davis said. "They had some success getting the ball on the perimeter. East Carolina, I know they run an awful lot of that same offense and they looked extraordinarily impressive. I'm sure that East Carolina, they're going to do a lot of the same things James Madison did with better football players."
With the Carolina offense able to score quickly last week, the James Madison offense was forced to become more one-dimensional and attempt to throw rather than sticking with what they do best - run the ball. As a result, the defensive line was able to get penetration and disrupt things and the secondary was able to get interceptions. An unintended consequence for Carolina was that the secondary did not face many significant early tests, a situation that will likely change this week.
"With the success that they (East Carolina) had running the football last week against Virginia Tech, they're going to certainly have the ability to not only continue to throw the ball but throw the ball deep. They've got some really talented, good receivers, and they change it up," Davis said. "In some respects, even though the philosophy of their offense is dissimilar to us, the similarities are they change personnel groups a lot. They're in three wide receivers one play, they're in two tight ends the next play, and they're in four wide receivers the next play. They're back and forth so you've got to have a lot of personnel groups to play in the ball game."
A young team's first road game: Carolina played eight true freshmen and 13 redshirt freshmen last weekend and 27 players overall saw their first game action. Twelve players were first-time starters. T.J. Yates, one of those first-time starters, impressed both fans and the coaching staff with his poise. He said that he relished playing road games in high school and that Saturday's game will be no different.
"I think it helps with the team, everybody getting together. If you have a (small) amount of fans there, it helps, but it makes the team have to work harder to support each other and pump each other up, because you don't have the fans there doing it for you," Yates said.
Yates admitted that he did not quite understand the in-state rivalry between East Carolina and North Carolina, saying: "I've heard they absolutely hate us for no reason." Senior linebacker and North Carolina native Durell Mapp understands the in-state rivalry very well and said the team is looking forward to being the object of attention, even if that attention is negative. He also takes seriously his role as a veteran to keep the younger players calm in a hostile environment.
"I love that type of attention. We as a team, we feed off that. We love that type of atmosphere. We love going into a hostile situation. We will thrive off that, I believe," Mapp said. "You've got to tell them (the younger players) not to get overexcited. Being a veteran player, I've been exposed to that type of atmosphere plenty of times, so you've got to just sit down with the younger guys and try to tell them what they should expect and tell them not to get overwhelmed by it."
Coach Davis said that he will try to keep the young team calm by preparing them for the crowd noise in practice and by keeping the routine as normal as possible.
"East Carolina is a very difficult place to go and play. It is loud, it is enthusiastic. Their fans do a great job of getting behind their football team and that obviously will add an additional challenge to a young team - being able to handle crowd noise and obviously going on the road," Davis said. "We're going to try to keep the routine as nearly identical this week in all phases as we did last week, particularly as it gets near the end of the week. We'll do pretty much the exact same thing on Friday and Saturday that we did last week with the kickoffs being at a similar time."
This team showed itself to be for the most part well-disciplined and enthusiastic last weekend. However, some of that enthusiasm translated into penalties as Carolina had three personal foul penalties out of eight total. Penalties are par for the course with a young team, and Carolina's eight penalties and 90 yards are both figures that led the ACC. Carolina allowed the Dukes to convert 15 first downs but three of those were by penalty. Only Georgia Tech allowed as many first downs due to penalty. Carolina had penalties on both James Madison touchdown drives. On the bright side, five of Carolina's eight penalties were in the second half - three in the third quarter and two in the fourth. Carolina's one procedural penalty came on a delay of game as Carolina was trying to draw James Madison off-sides on a 4th and 1.
At The Game
Listening to the Tar Heel Sports Network at the game: The in-stadium frequency in Greenville will be 92.7 FM.
Tickets: The game is a sellout.
What to do in Greenville: For entertainment options in Greenville, click here. Historical parts of North Carolina like New Bern and Bath are reasonable distances away from Greenville; for a list of further attractions, click here.
Watching At Home
Turn down the sound: If you're watching at home while listening to the radio or over the computer via Carolina All-Access, there will inevitably be some delay. For the reason - and a possible solution - click here.
A full list of THSN affiliates can be found here.
CSTV coverage: CSTV is available on most cable systems as a part of sports packages, including Time Warner and Comcast. To see the full list or for more information, click here. The game will also be available across the country as an online pay-per-view event via Carolina All-Access.
Names To Know
Terrence Brown: No one - not even the coaches - knew quite what to expect from junior transfer punter Terrence Brown. His first punt did not come until the second quarter, but it was quite a debut. Brown boomed a 58-yard punt that the punt unit downed at the James Madison three-yard line. In the third quarter Brown one-upped himself and hit his second punt 64 yards as the punt team downed it at the James Madison two-yard line. His third and fourth punts were anticlimactic by comparison - 48 yards and 31 yards, respectively - but only one of his punts was returned (for six yards) and the best starting field position he gave the Dukes was their own 21-yard line. As a result Brown's excellent work, Carolina now leads the nation in net punting with 48.75 yards per punt. Brown ranks third in the country and second in the conference in yards per punt with 50.25.
"It's too early to give anybody the MVP of a recruiting class, but getting him to come in and kind of somewhat alleviate an enormous hole that we had in the special teams. He swung the field position, he handled it with poise, his get-off times were all consistently under two seconds - it was a very, very promising first start. It was a big part of the success because keeping their offense pent up helped our defense," Davis said.
Brown's best punt of the night, the 64-yarder, came right after the Carolina offense had just gone a disappointing three-and-out and only reached the Carolina 39-yard line. Obviously, the punter can only do so much but Brown appears to be capable of hanging the ball up far enough and long enough to allow the punt cover team a chance to shift momentum in a ballgame. If Brown can continue his stellar play, perhaps he can help a young Tar Heel team by putting its defense in a good position and giving the offense a bit more security.
Anthony Elzy: Redshirt freshman Anthony Elzy had quite a debut as one of the three Carolina tailbacks, notching 11 rushes for 28 yards and two touchdowns. Of his 11 carries, three were on the goal line and two were for touchdowns. His first carry was in the first quarter and he converted a 4th and 2 at the James Madison eight-yard line. His second and third carries went for four and two yards respectively, and the third went for a touchdown. After Bruce Carter blocked a James Madison punt in the third quarter, Elzy ran it in from the James Madison 1-yard line for his second touchdown of the night. When he was not converting short yardage plays, however, Elzy was unable to really break away from the defense as his long run was just six yards. He had a third-quarter sequence when he got the ball three straight times on a first down from the Carolina 30-yard line and he was able to gain just nine yards before Carolina punted.
Elzy had a strong spring and is known as the power back to complement the speed of Johnny White and Richie Rich. Offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds provided Elzy quite the compliment after the James Madison game when he said that he reminded him of Ronnie McGill. Elzy, White and Rich are all listed as co-starters on the new depth chart and Coach Davis would like a running back to emerge.
Charles Brown: The true freshman cornerback is not a starter, but he is the cornerback primarily used in Carolina's nickel package. Despite the more limited field time, Brown had a nose for the football and notched a nine tackles - six solo and three assisted. He and Durell Mapp tied for the team lead with nine tackles apiece and Brown is now tied for eighth in the ACC in total tackles. The advantage for a young cornerback like Brown is that he is not being asked to do too much defensively and what he is asked to do, he does well.
"We were very pleased with Charlie's performance. Watching him in high school, he was just a good football player. He played wide receiver, played slot, returned kicks and played defense so you just knew that he had a good instincts about playing," Davis said. "(Defensive coordinator) Chuck Pagano and (special teams coordinator) John Lovett did a great job with him in that they didn't overburden him in the last 2-3 weeks. They said, `Look, this is the role we want you to master. If you learn this, then we'll kind of keep adding to your play as far as things that you can do. Just go in and learn to be a really good nickel and play in some of our sub-packages and don't try to grasp the entire concepts of the whole defensive secondary.' That helped him be very productive."
Bruce Carter: True freshman linebacker Bruce Carter debuted Saturday largely on special teams, blocking a punt close to the James Madison end zone that allowed Carolina to recover on the Dukes' one-yard line and score a touchdown on the next play. Carter was listed behind linebacker Chase Rice on the depth chart, but after Rice went out with what ended up being a season-ending injury, Carter played the rest of the game and will start against East Carolina. Carter had just one tackle, but it came on when James Madison was trying to convert fourth-and-one in the fourth quarter and he caught the Dukes' starting running back for no gain.
"Bruce had a significant role in special teams prior to Chase getting injured. He was able to go in as a true freshman and handle not only the continued roles on special teams but he went in and he made some tackles, made some good plays, and the stage didn't appear to be too big for him. I don't think he was credited with very few, if any, mental mistakes which is encouraging for a young kid to go in and we thought he did well," Davis said.
The young linebacker will be in his first start in a road game, and with the big-play potential of the East Carolina offense, Carter's mental abilities will be just as important, if not more so, than his physical gifts.
Patrick Pinkney: The quarterback situation in East Carolina is a very fluid one. Projected starter Rob Kass was suspended for the first game for a violation of team rules and sophomore Brett Clay started the Virginia Tech game - but he did not finish. Before junior Patrick Pinkney was inserted on the Pirates' fourth offensive series, East Carolina had just nine total yards. On his first drive, he led the Pirates to their only touchdown by rushing for six yards and completing a six-yard pass before he was replaced in the middle of the drive by Clay. The two continued to switch off throughout the game, but Pinkney still managed to be the Pirates' second-leading rusher with nine attempts for 48 yards (5.3 yards per carry). It was the most yards on the ground by an East Carolina quarterback since 2003. Pinkney completed 14 passes out of 25 attempts for 115 yards and was not sacked. According to head coach Skip Holtz, Pinkney did enough against Virginia Tech to earn the starting job, but no one knows who - and how many - will play at quarterback in East Carolina's tricky option-oriented offense.
"It really causes defenses problems because in most traditional offenses, the quarterback if he's not throwing the ball is a non-factor. Well here, now the quarterback is an enormous factor because he's also a runner, he's also a decoy because even if he doesn't have it, even by him rolling out somebody's got to account for him because it may rollout with a pass, it may be rollout with a bootleg, it could be him actually keeping the ball. So it puts an awful lot of pressure on your defense," Davis said.
Quentin Cotton: Junior linebacker Quentin Cotton is East Carolina's top returning tackler and ranked second on last season's team with 68 tackles (34 solo). He also had a team-high eight tackles for loss in 2006 and made third team All-Conference USA. He picked up where he left off in the Pirates' first game, recording 14 tackles (tied for 12th in the country) and adding had two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry. Of the eight players to record tackles for loss, he was one of only two that was not a defensive lineman. Cotton was one of 66 players named to the preliminary Butkus Award Watch List for the nation's top linebacker.
Chris Johnson: The East Carolina senior tailback has led the team in both kickoff returns and all-purpose yards for three consecutive seasons and led the program in rushing in 2004-05 and came in second in rushing in 2006. He got the start over Dominique Lindsay against the Hokies, but Lindsay had 50 yards on 10 carries while Johnson managed just 31 on 10 carries. However, Johnson did get the Pirates' lone touchdown on a nine-play, 52-yard drive after a Virginia Tech fumble. Johnson had 17 yards on the drive, including a 12-yard run.
Johnson is a kickoff-return threat and had the Pirates' only kickoff return Saturday of 24 yards. He did not catch a pass in the first game but has 88 receptions for 768 yards, the most by a running back in school history. Johnson ranks second on East Carolina's career all-purpose yards list with 4,096. He has returned kickoffs for 1,730 total yards (21.6 per return) throughout his career. He is tied for tenth on the all-time East Carolina rushing list with 1,588 yards (4.00) yards per carry.