I thoroughly enjoyed my own, personal homecoming this weekend as East Carolina knocked off Old Dominion, 24-21. I had a chance to tailgate with family and friends, and then cover my alma mater against the school I’ve covered for the past 35 years.
The Pirates are now 3-0 all-time in the self-proclaimed ‘Bailey Bowl’.
The game certainly wasn’t pretty. East Carolina made enough big plays to pull out the victory. Pirate coach Mike Houston knew how big the win was.
“Obviously, it was a great weekend for our program,” said Houston. “We were really excited to be able to go on the road to Norfolk, Va., on the campus of Old Dominion and come back home with a big win. We’re really excited about the way our team competed. We were talking as a staff during the day on Saturday about how sharp our guys were on Friday, it felt like the walk-throughs on Saturday morning, on both sides of the ball, were as crisp as they had been all year. I just had a good feeling about our team and where they were mentally going into the game. It certainly showed by the way they came out and competed.”
The win sets up a big match-up on Thursday on a national stage. Temple comes to town at 3-1 to take on a Pirate squad that has a winning record to open October at 3-2.
The Owls have beaten the Pirates five straight times, and most of the time the games haven’t been close.
Last year, Temple rolled past East Carolina, 49-6, in Philadelphia.
“Excited for this Thursday night. It’s a tough matchup against a really good Temple football team. I think Temple got everyone’s attention earlier in the season when they took on a Maryland team averaging over 50 points a game and beat them 20-17. (It was) A very impressive showing there. (They had) Another big win this past weekend at home against Georgia Tech 24-2. (They are) A solid football team. When you look at their roster, they’re older. They’re a big, very experienced football team. A lot of skill and athleticism at the standup positions. It’s a program that’s consistently won at the highest level of anyone in our league over the history of the American Athletic Conference and one that’s been very good the past several years.”
The Pirates came out of the ODU game a bit battered and bruised. Quarterback Holton Ahlers was pounded a number of times, and he’s at the very least sore. All of these players have very little time to recover with the Owls headed to Greenville on Thursday.
“We played a very physical football game on Saturday night,” said Houston. “We’ve got some bumps and bruises. It is what it is. Everybody in the country has got that. I think you’ve got to do a good job of managing that along with preparing your team. We had worked on and prepared for this week back during the summer as far as what kind of schedule you’re looking at. Certainly, during a compressed week, you’ve got to be smart with how you go out and prepare, so this week’s practice schedule will be a little bit different than it has been on a normal game week. I think we’ll have a group that takes the field on Thursday night that will be excited to play, and they’ll be excited about the opportunity.”
The Pirates will host a “black out” on Thursday night. Fans are encouraged to wear their best Pirate gear in black for the ESPN cameras on Thursday night.
Coach Houston says his Pirates look forward to donning the black.
“They probably do. I told marketing about a month ago, I don’t care what color we wear. I don’t care what logo we wear, just tell me what we’re wearing, and we’ll wear whatever. Our big concern is the play on the field with the X’s and O’s and getting our guys ready to play. Do I think that stuff has an impact on recruiting? Do I think it has a little bit of an impact on the players? Certainly. I think all of them enjoy some of those things. I think our fans enjoy that stuff to. We’ve done different theme games at all of the different institutions I’ve been at in the past, so I do think it’s something that kind of gets everybody going.”
Hopefully we’ll see a lot of Pirate Nation on Greenville in black at Dowdy-Ficklen.