So Papa Ruff has his offense slowly moving in the right direction, though they won't be mistaken for Texas Tech any time soon. His defense? Well...they're trying, I suppose.
East Carolina lost nine starters from last year's defense, including the entire front seven. Already it's painfully clear that the Pirates were in no position to handle that sort of attrition. The defense is allowing three more TDs per game than a year ago, nearly an additional yard per play. Both figures represent enormous slides. Skip Holtz picked a fine time to hit the eject button.
As bad as State's defense was a year ago, this ECU defense is worse. A lot worse. A really whole hell of a lot worse. State allowed 5.7 yds/play in '09...ECU is allowing 6.3.
To the obligatory tables!
||Total Off vs. Others
||Yds/Play vs. Others
||Total Off vs. ECU
||Yds/Play vs. ECU
(vs. Others = averages against every team on the schedule excluding ECU. Bold & italics = season-highs.)
Four teams set season-highs in both total yards and yards per play against the Pirates. And check out those yardage differentials. These teams averaged about 92 more yards vs. ECU than they did against the rest of their respective schedules, and an additional yard per snap. (What's your deal, Southern Mississippi?)
||Points vs. Others
||Pts vs. ECU
||Yds/PassAtt vs. Others
||Yds/PassAtt vs. ECU
Every one of them scored a season-high number of points against the Pirates. Three teams pulled off season-bests in all of the categories listed in these two tables. Tough times for McNeill and company, who are very fortunate to be 3-2.
Let's say the differentials in these categories (+92 total yards, +1 YPP, +17.5 pts) hold this weekend...what does State's projected offensive output look like?
Total Yards: 536
All three would be season-highs, naturally.
It's hard to actually expect such gaudy numbers on Saturday, despite how good our offense has been over the last month, despite what is obviously an inept East Carolina defense (now down a starting safety). This is NC State, the home of bizarre what-the-crap moments. The Pirates want this game badly and will be fired up; you never can tell how the rivalry factor is going to affect matters. That's the you're-gonna-jinx-it part of me talking. Everything else tells me that, barring a rash of turnovers, it would be a minor miracle if ECU held the Wolfpack under 50 points. And that will be enough to win by a few scores.