Keys to the Game – ECU

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Can Antonio Appleby and the Hoos’ defense keep forcing turnovers?

The Virginia football team starts the most critical month of 2006 with a road trip that could define the Cavaliers’ season. All along, most observers pointed to October as the “make or break” portion of the Hoos’ season – after all, UVa has one winnable out-of-conference game and three ACC contests on the calendar before Halloween.

The first somewhat spooky challenge is overcoming a fast and feisty East Carolina squad. The good news is that the Cavs don’t need to dig into their bag of tricks to start with a winning treat. That’s because many of this week’s Keys to the Game are pretty simple and time-tested in the football world.

Win The Turnover Battle

See, I told you some of the keys were simple and typical football logic. That’s why I started with one of the most obvious keys to victory in any football game played between any teams in any location. Turnovers are usually that important.

But there’s a reason this makes the list of five keys this week rather than leaving it as a given of Football 101. Both of these defenses like to create take-aways that boost the offense. For East Carolina, that means using a bend-but-don’t-break approach before opportunistically getting a turnover. So far this season, the Pirates have forced 14 turnovers with 8 INTs and 4 fumble recoveries – that’s tied for fourth in the nation.

Virginia, on the other hand, has been an aggressive defense this season, attacking from multiple angles out of its 3-4 scheme. That creates problems for opponents, who often lose track of who is blitzing from where. The result has been 9 take-aways (5 INTs, 4 fumble recoveries) – those turnovers have led to five UVa touchdowns.

The other reason this is a key for the Hoos is obvious – they’ve turned the ball over nine times this season and five of this scenarios have cost the team points, including three interceptions returned for touchdowns. Avoiding that against ECU should leave the Cavaliers