The worst part about yesterdayÂs football game wasnÂt the fact that we lost 38-0 in embarrassing fashion - it was that ECU really wasnÂt that good, and yet they toyed with us all night long. IÂll break down what I thought of the game by offense and defense.
IÂll start with the one bright spot in my eyes - pass protection. Both Spencer and D almost always had ample time to scan downfield and find receivers when the dropped back, whether or not they used a shotgun formation or not. Spencer did get sacked hard a few times, but all in all the offensive line did an admirable job of giving him the time needed to make plays. However, that time was pretty much wasted on a very green receiving corps, coupled with poor decision making on the part of our quarterbacks. Spencer, especially, threw a number of times into obvious double coverage, including the interception on the first drive, which was an abomination. Our WR was ÂopenÂ in the flat, but two ECU players (DB and LB, IIRC), were lying in the weeds about five yards off, just waiting to step in front of the pass and take in into the end zone. D Bryant, while possessing a much stronger arm than Spencer, made the same types of bad decisions. His seemed to result more from panicking (giving us some hope), while SpencerÂs mistakes were just plain old bad decisions. Overall, the WR (Battier, Love, Erdeljac) did a nice job on running their routes, but lacked that creativity to find a way to just get the ball. That kind of skill comes with time and experience though, so there is something to look forward to here.
The running game was really non-existent. Douglas broke one nice run in the fourth quarter, but overall we were looking at lots of two and three yard gains. For the game we rushed for 44 yards on 31 attempts, much less than 1.5 yards per carry - hardly anything to write home about. The run blocking was nothing to write home about, and the overall lack of success running the ball, as is always the case, allowed ECU to clamp down even more on our receivers.
We never got a chance to see the kicking game, because our offense never made it past the ECU 40 (only twice over midfield in the whole game, despite hardly ever having truly horrible field position). Brian Morton, as always, was solid with his punts, which included one gorgeous bomb late in the game. His only flub came in the rain, when I think the ball simply slipped out of his hands / off his foot.
Unfortunately, the defense didnÂt have many more positives that the offense (ECU had more than three times the amount of total offense that we did). They did a reasonable job of stopping the run up the middle, but nothing spectacular. ECU routinely used the play fake effectively, giving their QB plenty of time to pick apart our secondary. And pick apart he did - not once in the game did our DBs or safeties make a play on a ball. The only time passes were not complete was when the QB overthrew or underthrew his receivers. Our DBs, despite playing about five to ten yards off of their WRs, either would get beat down the field, or would maintain those five to ten yard cushions much too long, allowing easy completions for ECU in the flat. Once the ball was caught, the tackling by our entire secondary was horrendous. We hardly ever brought anybody down with our first tackle, mostly a result of our tendency to tackle with our hands rather than with our body. As I mentioned before, what worried me even more than the lackluster play of our secondary was the fact that ECU didnÂt exploit it nearly as well as they could have - and thatÂs worrisome for later games. ECU dropped two balls that were automatic touchdowns, where no defender was within 20 yards of the receiver.
As expected for the first game of the season, there were quite a few mental errors. Twice we had to take time outs because of the number of men on the field on defense, once for 10 men, another time for 12 men. We got flagged for a late hit and a facemask - signs of frustration more than anything else. Another downer was the crowd; IÂd guesstimate that it was about 80% Pirate Purple and Gold. It was embarrassing to see the ECU players motioning for noise when they had Duke pinned deep in the zone - and getting it - in our stadium. I even saw quite a number of ECU fans tailgating in the Iron Duke parking lots - itÂs a shame people canÂt at least take the time to find a Duke fan to sell their tickets to (insert your joke here). The students, surprisingly enough, showed up in strong numbers and stayed, despite a downpour in the middle of the game. They should be commended for that. There was also a new play by play announcer at Wallace Wade. He tried to spur on the crowd to support the team (Âthe defense could use some juiceÂ was my favorite), but he came off as corny and annoying more often than not.
While the game was an overall disappointment, there were bright spots. ItÂs just that I see those bright spots maturing in a few years rather than a few weeks.