GREENVILLE, N.C. - After a week off to regroup after a 15-10 setback to Virginia Tech, East Carolina takes to the road for the first of a three game set when the Pirates play at Kenan Stadium against North Carolina.
East Carolina fourth year head coach Ruffin McNeill will be looking for his second win against a BCS opponent since arriving back in Greenville and to do so, the Pirates will have to show marked improvement on offense after only scoring one touchdown in the Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech dominated time of possession by 16 minutes, limiting ECU(2-1/1-0 C-USA) to just 54 snaps.
East Carolina still had their chances in the second half, including a bobbled interception on Virginia Tech's end of the field that looked to have been a sure touchdown from linebacker Montese Overton.
ECU's defense hung tough and with the help of three missed field goals from the Hokies, ECU had an opportunity to win the contest on the last series of the game after ECU stopped the Hokies on the ECU one yard line.
The Pirates took over on downs, but ended up giving up a safety in the final two minutes of the game to seal the deal before kicking an onsides kick out of bounds to seal the deal.
McNeill addressed the press on Monday to recap Virginia Tech and this week's game in Chapel Hill and talked about what it will take to bring home a rare victory in Kenan Stadium, a place where wins have not come often or easy against North Carolina who McNeill says will stretch the field both vertically and horizontally on offense.
"It was a tough locker room to address after the Virginia Tech game," ECU's fourth year coach said, "I'm looking forward to the competition, the challenge and going through the process of doing what we have to do during the week to get ready for North Carolina."
PirateIllustrated.com asked McNeill what it will take to get this team over he hill mentally to get a rare win in Kenan Stadium on Saturday.
"We have to just concentrate on getting better as a team. The most important thing is playing fast, play confident, keep our poise and do the fundamentals well. We never neglect that, McNeill said, "Larry's always done a good job when he was at Oklahoma State, Southern Miss and at North Carolina. We have to have an emphasis on special teams, have good ball security and make sure we make the next play. If they make a great play it's not, oh no but it's here we go!"
Substitutions will play a big part in the game as UNC plays a NASCAR type offense that limits your ability to substitute unless you know what you are doing and do it at the right times.
"My job is to manage the game, be smart and use television timeouts and regular timeouts smartly and it's the coaches' job is to manage the substitutions."
McNeill says the ECU - UNC series is one that he would very much like to continue. One that he says is good for both schools.
"I would love to keep playing it. It's a great in-state game which is good for their coaching staff and ours and we all know each other."
McNeill had good things to say about UNC quarterback Bryn Renner as well as tight end Eric Ebron saying he is a special football player and a likely first round draft choice in the NFL saying he is a good blocker and tough to handle in space. He is also high on Quinshad Davis, a 6-4 rangy wideout who attacks the ball well and both running backs Romar Morris and A.J. Blue who ECU has seen before. James Hurst at left tackle, Landon Turner at right guard and the center Russell Bodine are players who stand out on offense. He talked about some of the keys to being successful this week and any week.
On defense Kareem Martin stands out along with Norkeithus Otis at the Bandit linebacker position along with free safety Tre Boston who McNeill terms as their quarterback on the back end of the UNC defense.
He also likes Sean Tapley who has great speed as the return man for UNC on kickoffs, T.J.Thorpe on punt returns along with punter Nick Weiler and place kicker Thomas Moore who McNeill says is in the mold of the tradition of UNC at kicker.
"The biggest thing is to do your job, said McNeill, "If you want to be a hero with me, do your job. And let's have a good time and have fun."
Injury wise, East Carolina hopes to get linebacker Kyle Tudor back on the field this week. They are working to increase his load during the week and will make a decision as to whether he will play later this week. Jeton Beavers is out after back surgery, linebacker Jeremy Grove remains out with a chest injury and cornerback Josh Hawkins hopes to return this week after a concussion two weeks ago against Virginia Tech.
"Josh has passed my concussion test," lifting two fingers then three, "But that isn't good enough. He will continue to go though the concussion test program. He is excited and wants to play this week.
Kyle's a tough homebre and a very tough, tough football player and I love the football player but I love Kyle more. If he's ready to play he will go on Saturday."
ECU has won only one time in Chapel Hill in 1975 along with a tie in 1978 on a last second Carolina field goal. They have come close in other games too but UNC has had their number overall in Chapel Hill.
The Tar Heels are 1-2 after a 28-20 loss to Georgia Tech in which Bryn Renner connected on 14 of 29 for 218 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. UNC was shut out in the second half. Sean Tarpley caught one of them and big Eric Ebron snagged the other as one of his six catches to lead the Tar Heels in receiving on the day.
Georgia Tech dominated the clock, keeping the football for forty minutes of the contest in Atlanta, a place where the Tar Heels have had difficulty getting wins.
ECU will have to find ways to limit both Renner and Ebron along with Romar Morris who had 54 yards to lead UNC on the ground last week and converted quarterback A.J. Blue who has proved to be effective running the football. He had five carries for 27 yards against the Yellow Jackets.
UNC gave up 428 yards in total offense to the Yellow Jackets including 324 on the ground against the Tech option attack. UNC will also be looking to get back on track on Military Day in Chapel Hill in a 12:30 kickoff on ACC Network television.
Catch PI-TV coverage of Coach McNeill's Monday press conference on the front page media player here on PirateIllustrated.com as our UNC Week coverage begins from Greenville.