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View from the East
Friday, May 18, 2012

By Al Myatt

Al Myatt

Casting a wary eye on 2012 opponents

A Look at the Foes: Part IV of IV



Part III: Mem, UAB, Navy

Part IV: UH, Tulane, Mar

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

View the Mobile Alpha version of this page.


Casting a wary eye on 2012 opponents: Part IV
ECU sends off seniors with a bang
Pirates searching for clutch hits
USM puts double whammy on Pirates
Game knotted when rains come
Epic pitcher's duel goes to USM, 1-0
Casting a wary eye on 2012 opponents: Part III
Pirates in search of something truly special
Pirates reel in a big catch in Smith
Smithmyer shines, ECU strolls
Big play RB Lee aims for quick impact

We're looking at East Carolina's three opponents during the home stretch of the 2012 regular season in the final segment of this series. The three Conference USA games with Houston, Tulane and Marshall could decide the Pirates' fate in terms of the league race as well as their possible return to a bowl after missing out on a postseason trip in 2011 for the first time in six years.

The Cougars, Green Wave and Thundering Herd have all undergone some significant transitions that will impact the respective programs for the upcoming season.

Houston at ECU, Nov. 3 (Hall of Fame Day)

The Cougars were dominant when they hosted the Pirates in ECU's fifth game last season. Case Keenum completed 30 of 37 passes for 304 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Houston added 215 yards rushing in a 56-3 win at soon-to-be-replaced Robertson Stadium. Defensively, the Cougars had nine sacks and picked off four Pirate passes.

Houston will have a new/old trigger man as Keenum has moved on to sign with the Houston Texans of the NFL as an undrafted free agent. The Cougars also went through a coaching transition as Kevin Sumlin left for Texas A&M. The only loss in a 13-1 campaign came at home to Southern Miss, 49-28, in the C-USA championship game. The Cougars bounced back to beat Penn State 30-14 in the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas after Tony Levine had been elevated to the head coaching position from special teams coordinator.

The Cougars are assured of some continuity from a 13-1 season in 2011 with Levine handling the reins. He was assistant head coach to Sumlin.

Levine was a walk-on at Minnesota who earned three letters. He was a graduate assistant at Auburn for Tommy Tuberville, a member of Bobby Petrino's staff at Louisville and a Carolina Panthers assistant before joining the Houston staff in 2008.

David Piland appears to be the heir apparent to Keenum at quarterback. Piland completed passes to nine different receivers in leading the Red team to a 42-28 win over the White in the Cougars' spring game. Piland connected on 21 of 27 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns in the spring tilt. Piland sat out all of 2011 as a redshirt but he saw extensive action as a freshman in 2010 when Keenum's season was derailed by injury. Piland's 2010 numbers included 201 completions in 345 attempts for 2,641 yards with 24 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Bram Kohlhausen saw time in the spring game for both the Red and White teams, hitting on 21 of 33 tosses for 270 yards with two scores and two picks. Crawford Jones also played for both teams, completing 15 of 21 for 204 yards and two TDs.

All C-USA running back Charles Sims, who had 821 yards rushing and nine touchdowns as well as 575 yards with four scores as a receiver in 2011, sat out of spring ball, which allowed Kenneth Farrow and Braxton Welford to get more reps.

Efrem Oliphant had 2.5 sacks in the spring game and fellow linebacker Miller Pierce recorded two sacks.

The Cougars are scheduled to move to the Big East Conference after playing in C-USA in 2012.

ECU at Tulane, Nov. 17

The Pirates will head to the Big Easy after an open date. Last year's open date was significantly earlier, coming after a 17-10 loss at home to Virginia Tech in the second game of the season and preceding a 28-23 win over Alabama-Birmingham in ECU's league opener.

Tulane has been involved in a battle with the New Orleans city council to gain approval for a 30,000-seat football stadium on campus. The facility would allow tailgating and a better game day atmosphere than the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which is off campus and over-sized for the Green Wave's needs. During an unbeaten season in 1997, Tulane drew just 23,340 to the Superdome for a 33-16 win over the Pirates.

The Wave has gone through some coaching musical chairs. Head coach Bob Toledo resigned on Oct. 18 last season after a 44-7 loss to Texas-El Paso. Co-offensive coordinator Mark Hutson had been elevated to the head coaching position before the Pirates thumped the Wave 34-13 in Greenville on Oct. 29.

Tulane named Curtis Johnson to guide the program on Dec. 5. A New Orleans native, Johnson had spent the previous five seasons as wide receivers coach for the New Orleans Saints. He helped the NFL team win the Super Bowl to cap the 2009 season.

Johnson took over a program that was 2-11 overall and 1-7 in C-USA in 2011. A 48-27 loss at Duke started the program's current 10-game losing streak.

The new coach felt progress was made during spring practice.

"We had a very good spring season and I was very pleased with the progress the team made with just the 15 practices," Johnson said. "I thought we finished ahead of schedule and that will put us in good shape heading into fall camp. We need to ... work hard over the summer if we're going to be successful next fall.

"We took a hard look out our personnel prior to and following spring practices and moved some guys to different positions. I believe we are putting our players in the best possible positions to be successful."

The Wave has some proven pieces in place going forward. Quarterback Ryan Griffin returns after completing 227 of 408 passes for 2,502 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season. Leading tackler, middle linebacker Trent Mackey, who began his college career at Duke, returns after making a team-high 96 solo tackles and assisting on 49 stops last season. Orleans Darkwa had 924 rushing yards and 13 TDs last season with 305 receiving yards. Running back Robert Kelley had 1,815 all-purpose yards, including kickoff returns, in 2011.

The specialists — kicker Cairo Santos, punter Jonathan Ginsburgh, long snapper John Edwards and holder Ryan Rome — are all back. Six returners on offense and five on defense have won starting spots on Johnson's post spring depth chart.

Griffin and Leon Blouin combined to complete 30 of 48 passes for 315 yards and six touchdowns in the spring game.

The Green Wave visits Memphis while ECU has its open date the week before the Pirates travel to New Orleans.

Marshall at ECU, Friday, Nov. 23 (Senior Day)

Marshall denied ECU a sixth straight bowl trip in the Pirates' 2011 season finale as the Thundering Herd pulled out a 34-27 overtime win in Huntington, WV. The outcome left ECU 5-7 overall, a win shy of bowl eligibility. The Pirates went 4-4 in C-USA last season. Marshall went on to defeat future C-USA member Florida International 20-10 in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.

While ECU spent much of its spring practice looking for the successor to Dominique Davis at quarterback, Marshall returns Rakeem Cato, who led the Herd to a 7-6 record as a freshman.

Cato threw for 2,059 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, completing 182 of 304 passes with 11 picked off. The Herd also returns top receiving target Aaron Dobson, who had 49 catches for 668 yards. Top running back Tron Martinez (160 rushes, 649 yards, 3 TDs) is also back.

Marshall's biggest losses are on defense. End Vinny Currry was a second round draft choice by the Philadelphia Eagles. Defensive back Omar Brown signed a free agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens and defensive lineman Delvin Johnson agreed to a free agent deal with the Washington Redskins.

Herd coach Doc Holliday, a former N.C. State assistant on Chuck Amato's staff, had to deal with a disciplinary situation after defensive back Phillip Warren, running back Martin Ward, cornerback Corie Wilson and linebacker Stefone Grace were arrested at a night club in April. Warren is alleged to have struck a police officer.

The Herd did not open its spring game to the general public but will go into 2012 with high expectations after winning their last three games last season. Marshall showed its potential with a 26-20 home win over eventual league champion Southern Miss a year ago.

Holliday has made some changes on his coaching staff. Lytrel Pollard will coach cornerbacks and Geep Wade will work with guards and centers on the offensive line. Bill Legg will now coach tackles and tight ends. Former Virginia Tech standout and Arizona Cardinals player J.C. Price has come in from James Madison to be defensive line coach.

Although no kickoff time has been established for the Friday matchup with the Herd, ECU athletic director Terry Holland has asked for an early afternoon start that won't conflict with high school playoff games that night. It's a potential conflict that led to controversy when Mike Hamrick was the ECU AD. Hamrick is now AD at Marshall, his alma mater.

It will be the last regular season home game for ECU's seniors. The Pirates responded to the occasion last season with a 38-31 win over Central Florida that kept ECU's bowl hopes alive.

The Herd will host Houston the week before coming to Greenville.

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05/31/2012 01:51 AM


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