PirateIllustrated - David Blackwell's ECU Defensive Statistics Are Vastly Trending Upward
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David Blackwell's ECU Defensive Statistics Are Vastly Trending Upward

ECU defensive coordinator David Blackwell has his unit on the rise entering this Saturday's game with ODU.
ECU defensive coordinator David Blackwell has his unit on the rise entering this Saturday's game with ODU. (PirateIllustrated.com photo)

David Blackwell’s Pirate defense has made an about face from ranking last or nearly dead last in defense in most categories last season to immediately becoming one of the better units in the country.

At 320 yards per game ECU ranks 24th in the country. The Pirates rank 3rd in first down defense, 16th in 3rd down conversion defense and are tied for 29th in fourth down conversion defense through last weekend.

One advantage is ECU has only played three games but the trend is clearly in the right direction and as the old adage states, defense wins ballgames.

The Pirates are 6th in team tackles for a loss and 40th overall in sacks and part of what is helping the defense is an offense that ranks 6th in time of possession, occupying 34 minutes of clock per game.

The first year ECU defensive coordinator talked about the cumulative effect of making tackles in the opposing team’s backfield.

“I think it does build as the game goes. As you start getting them, guys start playing with a little more confidence and a little more urgency,” said Blackwell, “We’ve been a step away all year on a lot of them and we’ve had our share of tackles behind the line of scrimmage throughout the season already. Part of it is the coverage,” Blackwell said, “We played really tight coverage on Saturday. Our guys did a really great job of making the quarterback hold the ball and when we can take away the immediate, quick throws you have the opportunity then to get more sacks.”

Blackwell talked about this week’s pivotal game with ODU where the Pirates hope to even their overall record at 2-2 and keep the momentum going in the right direction.

“Obviously their team is going to come in playing with a lot of confidence. They are in some ways like we are. They’re looking at their schedule right now and they’ve lost a couple of games that they really had an opportunity to win and were a few plays away from winning so they’re coming in saying boy, we’re a few snaps away from being 3-1 and really on fire right now.”

The Monarchs come in with some momentum after picking up a victory last week at home over the nationally ranked Hokies.

“They had a big win over Virginia Tech. Obviously they will come in here with a lot of confidence and they’ve got a lot of weapons,” Blackwell told PI, “They’re big at receiver. They play a lot of guys. Their tight ends are good players. Their running back is a big physical back and they play a lot of running backs.”

“They’ve played three different quarterbacks, really two that get the majority of the snaps. Obviously they went with the hot hand in the last game. They rode him out and he did a great job for them.”

ECU is also tied for second nationally with Northwestern in the fewest penalties with just eleven. The disciplined Pirates are second in fewest penalty yards and fourth in fewest penalty yards per game in their three games. The Pirates also rank 47th in overall scoring defense at 22.3 points a game. That puts ECU one touchdown away from ranking 16th.

The Pirates also hope to turn offenses over which gets the defense off the field and gives ECU additional chances to break serve.

“Obviously our goal is three turnovers a game. We’ve had so many missed opportunities with dropped interceptions, fumbles on the ground that we didn’t get on and things like that. Sometimes it just don’t bounce right. Obviously we need to take the ball away more, that’s something that we stress and we’re working on. But the big thing is if we keep swarming the football, keep getting a lot of hats to the football, that’s the key to getting takeaways.”

As the upward defensive trend continues, ECU’s ability to compete for victories goes up exponentially.

“Everybody we play from here on out can beat us and every team we play from here on out we can beat, we’ve just got to show up,” Blackwell said.

Catch PI audio from ECU defensive coordinator David Blackwell who broke down the latest after practice on Wednesday at Hight Field. PirateIllustrated.com was there for the very latest.