East Carolina to provide early conference test for Southern Miss
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2012 01:09
The season did not get off to a great start for the Golden Eagles when they visited the Cornhuskers of Nebraska, especially on the defensive end. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez threw for a career-high 354 yards as well as matching a career-high of five touchdown passes. The Cornhuskers also tallied a total of 278 yards on the ground. They totaled 632 yards and scored 49 points.
After the game, the Eagles returned home and hit the drawing board to correct mistakes and make improvements.
“What happened [in Nebraska] was exactly what my worst fear was,” defensive coordinator Tommy Weist said in a press conference on Monday. “We had seven new starters defensively go play like we had seven new starters out there. I thought we had three really good practices last week. We got better at doing what we do and that’s the key for us defensively. We have to do our stuff well.”
Offensively, the Eagles never seemed to flow as they rotated in three different quarterbacks: red-shirt junior Chris Campbell, freshman Anthony Alford and red-shirt freshman Ricky Lloyd. Campbell started and looked in control of the offense as he threw for 69 yards and a touchdown. The decision was made last week to start Alford against ECU. Against Nebraska, the freshman went 1-5 for six yards but amassed 84 yards on 15 rushes.
“We feel like Anthony gives us the best chance to move the football,” head coach Ellis Johnson said. “I was pleased with a lot of things about our offense in the first game, but I do think we have to be more productive.”
Last time the East Carolina Pirates visited The Rock, quarterback Dominique Davis led them to a 44-43 victory over the Eagles. Davis threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns. Like Southern Miss, ECU must replace a veteran starting quarterback who set school records before leaving for the NFL. Replacing Davis led to a quarterback controversy that saw junior Rio Johnson emerge as the starter. Johnson threw for 242 yards and accounted for three touchdowns in the season opener against Appalachian State but struggled last weekend against South Carolina, where he threw three interceptions. Sophomore Shane Carden started the second half against South Carolina. Carden went 12 of 18 for 140 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The Pirates have named Carden as the starter against the Eagles this weekend.
The keys to the game will be how well Alford handles East Carolina’s zone blitz scheme and how much the secondary improved as they try to slow explosive Pirate wide receivers Justin Hardy and Reese Wiggins. Cornerback Deron Wilson called Hardy and Wiggins “two of the better receivers in Conference USA.”
The Rock will be a charged with Golden Eagle pride due to high ticket sales from the “Fill it To The Top” campaign. Southern Miss will look to avoid a 0-2 hole to start the season and get a leg up on conference play against a division rival.