Petersen: ECU Must Be Able to Run Against UCF This Week in Orlando

Mark Lindsay, Publisher
Pirate Illustrated
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The Pirates will face one of their stiffer tests of the season when they take on (21)UCF in Spectrum Stadium this Saturday night.

The Knights made their way into the top 25 last week for the first time in three years after a 40-13 victory over a solid Memphis team. They are leading the nation in scoring at 47.5 points per game under Scott Frost.

UCF is one of three teams in the country that ranked in the top eleven in the nation in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The other two are Washington and Alabama.

Quarterback McKenzie Melton ranks second nationally in pass efficiency(203.7) and tenth in the nation in total offense at 339.3 yards a contest.

Tre'Quan Smith has hauled down 15 catches for 337 yards to go along with being second in the nation with seven touchdown catches.

New Bern cornerback and UNC transfer Mike Hughes leads the country with 2.0 passes defended a game. He also has a pair of interceptions to his credit including one for touchdown.

The Knights come in as a 35 point favorite largely because ECU's defense is currently ranked dead last in the country. Teams are scoring on the Pirates on almost every possession.

Current ECU defensive coordinator Robert Prunty says he is planning on playing a bunch of his younger players this week and could even take the redshirts off of some to do it.

Offensive coordinator Tony Petersen knows that ECU's offense is going to have to score every time down the field because if UCF breaks serve, the Pirates could be toast.

"We've got to keep starting fast and we've got to continue that and we've got to get into the end zone," Petersen said.

"We're young and we're thin and we're beat up. We've got to do better up front and we've got to do better at running back but at the end of the day we're a little young at offensive line and we're beat up as far as who's playing and that's affecting us right now in the run game."

Darius Pinnix out of Western Alamance is beginning to take over at running back for the Pirates with his physical style and ability to protect the football. If ECU can get him going, it will take a lot of the pressure off of quarterback Thomas Sirk in the ECU run game.

"He's getting awful close now for a freshman. I go back to when we had Marion Barber when he was a freshman at Minnesota," said Petersen, "He's just that type of kid. He takes care of his business, he runs tough. He can stay in between the tackles and really punish some people and we've got to keep giving him the ball."

Doing something that the Knights maybe aren't expecting starts on the ground according to Petersen. He says he'd like to be closer to thirty carries than in the low twenties and that means the ECU offense has to be much better on second down.

"We have to be able to run the ball. We've got to be able to put ourselves in third and medium and short. We've got to help our defense there. We've got to help our offense. We've got to eat some time off the clock and we've got stay out of the third-and-long. So at the end of the day however we do it, we've got to be able to run the football better."

Petersen says UCF's defense is better than they were last year.

"You look at 18 (outside linebacker Shaquem Griffin), he's probably the best player in our conference. Mike Hughes, they added and he's probably the best corner we've played so far," Petersen told PI, "The freshman corner, number 20 (Brandon Moore) is a really good player and their experienced and good up front with those three guys. They've got a couple of weak positions but overall they're strong and they're better than they were last year."

Game time is 7 o'clock on CBS Sports Network when the Pirates travel to (21)UCF to take on the Knights in Spectrum Stadium.

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