GREENVILLE A rainbow appeared behind the
North side of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium before halftime of East Carolina's
football game with Navy on Saturday. If anyone found a mythical pot of
gold in the second half, it was the Midshipmen.
The Pirates were in the non-conference
contest at the break, trailing 28-21. That was before four turnovers
were converted into 24 second half points by the visitors, who certainly
should have been very thankful on Military Appreciation Day.
"We screwed our defense over," said ECU
quarterback Dominique Davis, who completed 43 of 65 passes for 413
Davis' Texas Tech-like numbers looked
good until compared to Navy's 521 yards rushing.
"We put our defense in positions that
would be tough on the New England Patriots," said Pirates coach Ruffin
The ECU defense looked like it was
trying to figure out the codes of a new video game against the
Midshipmen's triple option attack. The Pirate offense was doing its best
to keep pace before it began shooting itself in the foot with turnovers.
Navy used the good fortune to fuel a
76-35 win, the most points scored by a team in the 240-game history of
It got ugly. Then it started raining.
Most of the crowd of 50,191, the second
largest in stadium history, had said "No mas," and headed for the exits
as the score mounted in Navy's favor.
When it rains, it pours, as they say.
With no doubt as to the final outcome
there were a lot of little things to contemplate.
Isn't a military academy a good place
to develop a football mindset?
"They train you mentally to succeed,"
said Pirate defensive tackle Josh Smith, who spent a season at Naval
Academy Prep in Newport, Rhose Island. "They make you mentally tough."
It might make you feel a little better
about national security knowing that these Navy guys will be making that
And how did officials not assess a
facemask penalty after a Navy defender contorted Michael Booker's head
and neck after a reception late in the first half? A flag was thrown but
it was dismissed. It would have put the Pirates in makeable field goal
range. I hesitate to point out that it was an ACC crew calling the game.
And how tough is ECU's Mr. Everything,
He came back after a lower back
contusion on a punt return in the first half that left him barely able
to walk off the field with assistance.
It was the first loss in front of the
new section of stands, the Boneyard, at the East end of the stadium. The
last time the Pirates went unbeaten at home was in 1995. There have been
four seasons with one home loss since then.
Who would have thought that an 85-58
men's basketball exhibition win over Montreat on Friday night would be
ECU's best showing of the weekend?
How bad was it?
Edward Teach, better known as
Blackbeard, set the record for a bad day by a Pirate when he was
beheaded by men under the command of Lt. Robert Maynard of Her Majesty's
Royal Navy on November, 22, 1718.
It wasn't that bad.
Still, chalk up another one for another
Navy on another November day. It was the competitive equivalent of a
Teach's head was placed on a stake at
the mouth of an inlet east of here to discourage other Pirates. The
modern Pirates will live to fight again and that opportunity comes
quickly with a trip to play UAB at Birmingham's cavernous Legion Field
on Thursday night. That game has implications in the Conference USA race
and in terms of ECU's bowl eligibility.
ECU is 5-4 overall and 4-1 in
McNeill said there will be no 24-hour
rule between games as has become customary.
"I ordered the players and coaches to
immediately start thinking about UAB," McNeill said. " ... I expect them
to get up, stand up and fight like wild men. It starts with me."
Those words should resonate within the
program and throughout the Pirate Nation. Despite a figurative
beheading, Navy didn't kill the Pirate spirit.