That was a terrible game. By far the most disappointing performance of the year. This looked like a very winnable game against an ECU team that got waxed in their first two games. You went into Greenville last year and put up 45 points and 525 yards on a better Pirate defense last season. The Pirates first two opponents scored 27 and 35 points respectively…in the first half of their games. Even with that in mind, the biggest problem was the defense.
Defense- Pick Your Poison
The defense played their worst game of the season against ECU. Unfortunately, the poor play wasn’t confined to one or two positions. It happened at all levels of the defense. You couldn’t stop the run or pressure the quarterback playing your base defense. When you brought pressure and played man you got beat one on one in the backend. Holton Ahlers is a streaky quarterback, but you have to make it hard on him. ECU put up 44 points and probably left a few out on the field due to drops by open receivers. The depth took a hit with unavailable players, in-game injuries and an ejection but it still shouldn’t be this bad.
Offense- Need answers for Blitz
It was no surprise that ECU brought a ton of pressure. That’s what they showed on film their first two games. However, in those games, they got torched to the tune of 7.03 yards per play and 50 points a game. Their first two opponents exploited the big holes left by the blitz and moved the ball at will. USF had moments of being able to move the ball, but was unable to sustain the effort throughout the night. The Bulls did hit some explosive passes this week, but they often had to keep seven men into protect. If that’s your only answer to blitz that will make life easier on defenses. All I have to do on defense is show the threat of blitz and now I only have to defend three receivers in the route. If I bluff blitz and drop out of it then you will really struggle to get open. I’d love to see the Bulls open it up a little more. If you’re giving up sacks and pressure with seven man protections you may as well put those guys out in a route and give yourself a chance to beat the blitz with the ball. This will likely be the blueprint most defenses follow against the Bulls throughout the season.
Special Teams- Must be Net Neutral
Even with the constant shuffling of players due to this strange season, the special teams must stop being a negative. The onside kick can be excused somewhat as Coach Scott realized that his defense was unlikely to stop a nosebleed last night. However, the problems in the punting game must be fixed. You cannot give your opponents prime field position and expect to win games. The defense came up big with a stop after the failed onside, but the Bulls got immediately burned after the botched punt snap. The poor special teams play, along with some turnovers, allowed East Carolina an average starting field position of their own 40 yard line.