ECU - UAB Week: How they Stack Up

PI's Kevin Jones and Mark Davis examine the matchups in this week's UAB Week edition of HOW THEY STACK UP. The Pirates host the Blazers this Saturday in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
ECU: Last Sunday against Tulsa , Patrick Pinkney finished 20 for 29, 275 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Pinkney did a good job of spreading the ball around and letting his playmakers make plays. Pinkney played smart and made the right throws. When nothing was open Pinkney did a good job of getting rid of the ball and playing another down. The vertical passing game seemed to come alive as well.
Darryl Freeney has developed into one of Pinkney's favorite targets on the deep pass. This season Pinkney has completed 176 of his 306 pass attempts for 1,957 yards, and has thrown 10 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Pinkney doesn't need to throw all over defenses for this team to continue winning. As long as Pinkney can orchestrate an efficient offense and play close to mistake free offense, the Pirates will continue to roll.
UAB: Senior Joe Webb does it all for UAB on offense. Webb is very capable throwing the ball, but is even more efficient with his feet. On the year Joe Webb has completed 123 of his 209 pass attempts for 1,730 yards.
Webb has also tossed 16 touchdowns compared to 6 interceptions. Last week in a 31-21 win against conference foe Memphis, Webb finished with 378 yards and 3 touchdowns. Webb is very comfortable with the ball in his hands, especially running the football.
For 2009 Webb has rushed the ball 184 times for 1,158 yards and 10 touchdowns. His best rushing performance came earlier in the year against Rice when he carried the ball 20 times for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns. It might have only been Rice, but he's followed that up with over 100 yards rushing against Southern Miss, Ole Miss, Marshall, UTEP, and Florida Atlantic.
Advantage: UAB. Joe Webb is a very dynamic player that will beat teams with both the pass and the run.
Running Back
ECU: Dominique Lindsay was once again phenomenal in a Pirates victory. Against Tulsa in a 44-17 victory, Lindsay had a career day rushing for 172 yards on 31 carries. Lindsay was also able to find the end zone via a 12 yard pass from Patrick Pinkney.
Lindsay has been having a great year for the Pirates. After his 172 yard performance, his season total is 811 yards on 143 carries, giving himself an average of 5.7 yards per carry. One area that Lindsay could use some improvement would be getting into the end zone. For the year he only has three rushing touchdowns.
Brandon Jackson has been a very solid #2 running back for the Pirates. While Lindsay got most of the attention after beating Tulsa , Jackson had a solid game with 45 yards on 9 carries. For the season Jackson has 84 carries 316 yards and 3 touchdowns. Giavanni Ruffin can expect to see some carries in the game against UAB. The Pirates have done a good job this year using a rotation at running back.
UAB: When Joe Webb isn't making defenders miss with his feet, he hands the ball off to running backs Daniel Borne and Rashaud Slaughter. Borne has carried the ball 50 times for 188 yards and a touchdown.
Slaughter has been a little more effective carrying the ball 31 times for 210 yards and a touchdown. Even though most of the rushing production comes from quarterback Joe Webb, the Pirates still need to take Borne and Slaughter serious. UAB will use Borne and
Slaughter to catch teams off guard if they focus primarily on Joe Webb.
Advantage: ECU. Dominique Lindsay has been the key to the Pirates moving the ball offensively and getting first downs. Lindsay can also take over the game at the running back position.
Wide Receiver
ECU: By now everyone in the C-USA knows who Dwayne Harris is. He has been nothing short of spectacular for ECU this year. Being Pinkney's #1 option at receiver, Harris has been able to make 54 receptions for 619 yards and 3 touchdowns. Besides being the number one option at receiver, Harris has been able to run the ball effectively from time to time.
Harris has carried the ball 26 times for 101 yards and 4 touchdowns. Darryl Freeney and Alex Taylor have been playing better as of late, showing that they are reliable targets for quarterback Patrick Pinkney.
Freeney played exceptionally well last week against Tulsa . Against Tulsa , Freeney had 8 receptions for 152 yards and a touchdown. Jamar Bryant's status is still unclear. He has been battling injuries all year long.
UAB: Joe Webb's favorite target at receiver is Frantrell Forrest. Forrest has made the most of his 25 receptions by gaining 417 yards and scoring 7 touchdowns. The past two weeks have been very good to Forrest as he has scored 4 touchdowns. Last week against Memphis was Forrest's best performance of the year. He finished with 7 catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Other targets for Webb include wide receiver Mark Ferrell and a quality tight end in Jeffery Anderson. For the season Anderson has 21 receptions for 332 yards and 4 touchdowns, while Ferrell has been able to make 19 catches for 263 yards and a touchdown.
Advantage: ECU. The Pirates have the advantage here. Dwayne Harris is arguably the most electrifying player in the C-USA and Darryl Freeney has become the #2 option ECU was looking for at wide receiver.
Offensive Line
ECU: The offensive line has been playing at a very high level the past couple weeks for ECU. The Pirate line was instrumental in Dominique Lindsay's 172 yard performance against Tulsa .
Sean Allen and Terence Campbell opened holes all night and lead the way for Lindsay's dominant performance. ECU is still very fortunate not to be hit by injuries up front. The Pirate offensive line is currently ranked 32nd in the nation with only 11 sacks allowed all year.
UAB: The offensive line for UAB has played well this year and is continuing to improve. In UAB's three game winning streak the offensive line has protected Webb, allowing him to make the right reads.
The offensive line has also done a great job of blocking downfield when Webb gets loose. With credit to the offensive line, UAB leads the conference in rushing with 228.1 yards per game. The offensive line for UAB has given up 17 sacks this year which ranks 52nd in the nation.
Advantage: Push. Both units are talented and have advantages. UAB is a little better running the football, but ECU has done a better job protecting their quarterback.
Defensive Line
ECU- The defense is peaking at the right time. Tulsa had a disgusting 30 rushing yards on 31 carries. And finally the defensive line was able to penetrate for 6 sacks. C.J. Wilson was a freak of nature on the field Sunday night more than doubling his sack total in '09 (5.5) with 3 on the night and added 5 tackles. Even when double teamed, C.J. was creating chaos.
Senior Jay Ross was part of a defensive scoring explosion in the 4th quarter. Prior to the game the Pirates hadn't scored one defensive touchdown all season. When the final whistle blew, the Pirates had scored an astounding 3 touchdowns all in the 4th quarter. Ross rumbled a fumble 49 yards (that seemed like 149 yards) to the house.
Youngster Michael Brooks made his presence felt with 3 tackles as he continues to emerge as a stone cold run stuffer. Even Scotty Robinson was active all night forcing a fumble and registering a sack.
Similar to last week's G.J. Kinne, UAB's leading rusher is the quarterback Webb. Webb has many designed option runs and can grind it out all 4 quarters.
Bottom Line: This is one tough unit right now. The pass rushers have woken up and the Pirates continue to smother opposing running backs. Don't expect 3 defensive touchdowns against UAB, but do expect the great defensive line play to continue.
The Blazers are giving up an average of 31.7 points per game. They are on a 3 game winning streak but over very insignificant opponents (UTEP, FAU and Memphis). The Blazers were able to limit Southern Miss to 17 points, the units best effort, in an October win. UAB is dead last in the C-USA in total defense giving up a whopping 470 yards per game.
The pass rush begins with 6'2 260 lb. junior Bryant Turner. Turner has a career best 6 sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss, but only 19 tackles total. Turner can't disappear against a solid ECU O-Line this week. JUCO transfer Derek Slaughter has been elevated to a starter at the other defensive end with 3.5 sacks and 31 tackles. He rotates with under producing senior Anthony Barnes.
The middle is occupied by junior and 3rd year starter D.J. Reese. 6'4 280, Reese has 21 tackles and is the Blazers top run stuffer. Perhaps one of the smallest defensive tackles in the nation (6'4 245) is sophomore Elliot Henigan. His 40 tackles and 3 forced fumbles aren't a joke either. ECU must not down play his size as Henigan can create havoc in the backfield as shows his 7 tackles for a loss. Junior Tim Davis can play end or tackle.
Advantage: ECU- It's hard to play any better than the Pirate front 4 right now. The Blazers have had a few surprises that have surfaced as the season has come along. Even so, they can't compete with the Pirates size and strength. UAB is much better against the run than the pass and have a modest 18 sacks on the year. Still, Dominique Lindsay has been a man on a mission lately.
ECU- The linebackers were the "Clean-up Crew" Sunday night at Tulsa. Whatever the front 4 didn't stop it didn't matter. A barrage of Pirate linebackers weren't far behind to wrap up. Leading the way last Sunday was Senior Chris Mattocks who had 8 tackles.
Dustin Lineback was second in the team with 7 tackles off the bench but a knee injury could end his season. Skip Holtz said "He brings emotion, energy and toughness. I can't tell you the role he played on this football team. That'll be a loss for us."
Jeremy Chambliss suffered a concussion and will be limited in practice but should be good to go Saturday. And Nick Johnson has admirably been fighting through shoulder, knee, ankle and toe injuries yet Holtz has "never heard him complain. He leaves with 8 bags of ice all over."
The units banged up. Cliff Perryman and Marke Powell will see increased reps. All 3 seniors are graduating; starting spots for 2010 could be on showcase in the next few games.
UAB linebacking play took a huge hit with the graduation of star Joe Henderson. The unit is young, undersized and lacking speed. Not a very good combination.
Sophomore Lamanski Ware is the team's most sure tackler at outside linebacker. His 58 in 2009 are 2nd for the Blazers. However at only 205 pounds, Ware could be on his backside more often than not Saturday. Teaming with Ware on the outside is 5'11 junior Keon Harris. Another 205 pounder Harris has the most speed of any linebacker and is a former safety. He has the most experience in the unit starting 7 games last season.
Middle Linebacker is held by true freshman Daniel White. The biggest of the bunch (6'2 220) White has potential to be a star. A do-it-all guy, White can make plays behind the line of scrimmage and plays the pass well.
The Blazers have been hurt on several small plays that became big plays because of missed tackles. Expect this trend to continue Saturday at Dowdy.
Advantage: ECU- Even with a banged up unit ECU is far superior to the Blazers. Chambliss' legs will be fresh Saturday after sitting out much of practice this week. The Blazers front 4 will have trouble against ECU's O-Line meaning a busy day for the linebackers. The Blazers should keep an eye on Pinkney's legs which have been more active than expected in the past few weeks.
ECU: The game ball from last Sunday's victory should go to the entire Secondary. The unit is making key 3rd down stops, blitzing effectively off the edge and creating gigantic plays.
We'll start with Emmanuel Davis. Not to toot our own horn, but last week we suggested Davis be more aggressive and jump a route. He did that perfectly while the game was still close in the 4th quarter and took the pick 42 yards for 6 points. Davis wrapped up well (6 tackles) and his instincts were correct (3 pass breakups). Even though he missed 2 early games Davis leads all ECU corners in tackles and is elevating the play of others around him.
Strong Safety Levin Neal was stupidly penalized for a running into the kicker in the 1st quarter but made up for that mistake with a 57 yard interception return for a score. Neal looked like Dwayne Harris with the ball and possibly should get a chance at punt returns?
Regardless he and Van Eskridge were the big reason in limiting Tulsa to 236 yards through the air with their blanket like covering over the middle of the field.
Frantell Forrest isn't as elusive as Tulsa's wide out Demarris Johnson, but he finds ways to get to the end zone. The Pirates need to continue to mix coverages. Coach Holtz commented on how this unit has matured throughout the year and we agree. Cornerback Darryl Reynolds should be returning from an injury to provide depth.
ECU is 8th in the country with 26 takeaways this season. UAB is tops in the C-USA with a +10 turnover margin. Something has to give.
UAB: Not only is the 325 yards through the air a C-USA worst, it's the worst in the nation. By a good 20 yards. What's even worse for the Blazers is that they haven't even played the likes of Houston or Tulsa, two pass happy teams that rack up an absurd amount of statistics.
Nope, UAB has just plain been torched up and down the field all season. In UAB's last 5 games the smallest passing yards total they've allowed is 310 yards against a dreadful Florida Atlantic team. UAB has allowed a passing play of 41 yards or more in every game this season. It's amazing how this team is still 5-5. A UAB beat writer said the players have the talent but haven't been in proper position all season.
The busiest player on the team has been free safety Hiram Atwater. The hard hitting JUCO already has 71 tackles but just one interception. Atwater teams up with sophomore strong safety Chase Daniel. The program loves Daniels height (6'3) but Daniel often lets receiver sneak behind him. He does have a team leading 3 interceptions.
At Corner UAB houses its lone senior in the back seven, Brandon Carlisle. For a third year starter his struggles are unacceptable. His hands will be full all afternoon with Dwayne Harris. 5'9 sophomore Terrell Springs is going through a sophomore slump after an impressive rookie campaign. Springs is often overmatched but is shockingly a good tackler with 52 on the year.
Advantage: ECU- Probably the easiest advantage given all season. UAB would have trouble defending Rose High School's passing attack let alone a hot Pirate offense. We predict multiple throwing touchdowns from Pat Pinkney in one of his final home games.
Special Teams
ECU: The coverage units for ECU played so-so last week against Tulsa . ECU did have the daunting task of facing Damaris Johnson, but overall they didn't stay in their lanes and missed some tackles. Dustin Lineback{/db], who has been a special teams star for ECU, was injured in the game and will probably miss the year with a knee injury. Matt Dodge is continuing to punt the ball very well for ECU. Dodge is averaging 45.5 yards per punt which is ranked 3rd in the nation. [db]Ben Hartman is 12 for 17 on field goals this year. Last week against Tulsa Hartman went 3 for 4 with his only miss from more than 40 yards out. Dwayne Harris and Travis Simmons will take care of punt returns and kick returns. Dwayne Harris is always a threat to take it the distance on special teams.
UAB: Trey Ragland is ranked 21st in the nation with 42.7 yards per punt. Ragland has had a very successful sophomore year. Josh Zahn is the kicker for UAB and is 12 for 16 on the year. Zahn has a strong leg and made a 51 yard field goal earlier this year against Southern Miss. Zahn is also 4 for 6 from 40 to 49 yards out. Handling punt returns and kick returns will be Frantrell Forrest. Forrest hasn't returned a kick this year, but he has two in his career.
Advantage: ECU. Dwayne Harris can change a game with his kick returns and Matt Dodge has been deadly punting the ball for ECU. ECU is a defensive team and having Dodge pin opposing teams deep only gives ECU a better shot at winning the game.
UAB has lots to proud of. Their 5-5 record is much better than pre-season "experts" had them pegged at. Winning 1 of their final games (UCF after ECU) will have the Blazers bowl eligible for the first time since 2004. Their play has made the C-USA look better on the national stage but anticipate UAB's 3 game winning streak to come to an end Saturday.
Take away one 96 yard play against Southern Methodist and ECU would be 6-0 in Conference USA. The defensive touchdown outburst was perfect for confidence rolling into the final few home games. Freeny's emergence has given the Pirate offense a new dimension they desperately needed.
Key Players: ECU- LB-Jeremy Chambliss, WR-Darryl Freeney,
UAB- Anyone in the secondary willing to step up, QB-Joe Webb, DE-Bryant Turner
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