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View from the East
Thursday, October 6, 2011

By Al Myatt

Dealing with turnovers and disappointment



Dealing with turnovers and disappointment
Different verse, same as the first
Audio: Ruffin McNeill Monday Press Conference
Opportunity finally there for ECU?
AP & Coaches Polls
Game Center: North Carolina 35, ECU 20
Box Score / Statistics
Audio: Ruff Post-game
Game Day Gallery
Myatt: ECU making wrong play
O'Brien: Schedule taking its toll
C-USA Scoreboard
Monroe: Kevin's Keys to the Game
Pep talk optional this week
Get 'em before they're gone! Bonesville The Magazine print or digital edition...

C-USA Standings

East Division







West Division







C-USA Scores & Schedule

Players Responding to Camp Connors, Part II

The Tenth Anniversary Edition of Bonesville The Magazine has rolled off the presses. Among the wide- ranging features in its 100 pages is a revealing report by Bonesville columnist Al Myatt on the immediate impact East Carolina strength and conditioning guru Jeff Connors is having on the team since his return to the program.  Both the traditional print and online Flash versions of Bonesville The Magazine may be ordered through links elsewhere on this page.

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

The Houston game Saturday has been sitting on the East Carolina football schedule like the definitive trap game.

It's a high-caliber Conference USA opponent on the road the week after an emotional home game with an in-state rival.

The danger would be there regardless of the outcome against North Carolina. If the Pirates had knocked off the Tar Heels, there would be concerns about a letdown against the Cougars. As it was, early ECU turnovers helped North Carolina to a 35-20 win.

"They were very disappointed after the game in the locker room, very disappointed, because they've put in a lot of work," said ECU coach Ruffin McNeill of his players' response to the North Carolina game. "When you put in a lot of work and you don't get the result that we expect and we want, it's a disappointing time. The 24-hour rule was in effect."

Win or lose, the Pirate program takes a day after a game to get past the previous contest and focus forward.

"We went through the film on Sunday afternoon and practiced Sunday night like we always do," said the Pirates coach. "I thought we had a very good practice. As the practice went on, we picked up."

McNeill said practice on Tuesday, a heavy day, went well.

"I was proud of that," he said. "Tuesdays are a hard practice for any college football team. To come out and introduce new offense, new defense or new special teams looks is always difficult because they've got one team in their mind. We started Sunday, introducing it but Tuesdays are very hard and we had a very good practice on Tuesday."

Replace the ambition, emotion and passion that is ECU football with realistic expectations for the first four games and the Pirates are sitting where they should be, which is 1-3 overall and 1-0 in Conference USA.

ECU beat itself with turnovers against South Carolina and North Carolina. There were certainly missed opportunities against Virginia Tech. The Pirates can count themselves fortunate that they managed a win despite seven turnovers against Alabama-Birmingham.

The defense has been playing much better than a year ago.

Turnovers have been the factor that has consistently impeded the program thus far this season. Despite the attention the coaching staff has given the situation, the Pirates are tied for 118th and last in the Football Bowl Subdivision with Iowa State and Western Kentucky at minus-2.0 per game in turnover ratio.

"We address it every day," McNeill said. "I've addressed it with the group. ... We've talked about how important it is since the spring and how important it is taking it away on defense. ... We work on it every day. We have drills every day. We also have a punishment if you do fumble. Do it in practice and we have a punishment deal. In the game if you do, you're going to be taken out of the game.

"We're doing all the things that we can. ... If we don't turn it over those games have a chance to be different. We've faced three teams that have 60-plus NFL guys on them. Still, if we take care of the ball and continue to play smart, we have a chance in those games to come out on the victorious end."

The Cougars have had extra time to prepare for the Pirates since their last game was a 49-42 win at Texas-El Paso on Thursday, Sept. 29.

One good thing about playing Houston is that ECU's defense will have a degree of familiarity with Houston's attack.

"It's similar to our offense," McNeill said. "Case Keenum is a great quarterback. It seems like those wideouts have been there six or eight years, (Tyron) Carrier and those guys, Patrick (Edwards). They're experienced in the offense. They understand the concept. (Coach) Kevin (Sumlin) has been there since 2008. They've been running this offense since the spring of 2008 so they understand it very well. Their offensive line has been around and been in the system. They have three running backs that fit what this offense needs.

"They have a small running back like we do with Reggie (Bullock) but they also have the bigger backs in (Charles) Sims and those guys that can really hit it and read it well. They do a great job of spreading the football and they throw it around. They also run it though. They do a good job of running the football, too."

Keenum leads the FBS in total yards individually with 408.2 per game and Houston is first as a team in total yards with 610 per game. The Cougars opened the season with a 38-34 win over UCLA and have since improved to 5-0 overall and 1-0 in C-USA. Keenum, a sixth-year senior, and some of the Cougars veterans may get motivation from a 38-32 loss at ECU in the C-USA championship game in 2009, which was the last time the Pirates played Houston.

For ECU, the atmosphere at Robertson Stadium this week will be a stark contrast to the turnout of the Pirate Nation at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium this season. The crowd of 50,610 for the ECU-North Carolina matchup set a new stadium record and elevated the Pirates' average home attendance above the 50,000 mark.

East Carolina has some elements to build on despite the disappointment of the North Carolina game. ECU led 27-19 in first downs and 490-456 in total yards. Pirate quarterback Dominique Davis completed 41 of 58 passes for 417 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

ECU's defense became more effective against North Carolina's ground attack as the game progressed. Michael Brooks and Antonio Allison threw Ryan Houston for a 1-yard loss when the Tar Heels went for it on fourth-and-goal at the ECU 1-yard line with 1:43 to play, a statement that ECU never gave up despite significantly contributing to its own demise. North Carolina's 11-2-1 lead in the series will be diminished if its win in 2009 is vacated as the school has suggested in response to its list of NCAA violations.

Even with hope of improving league affiliation continuing to swirl, the primary goal within the ECU program has been to win the Conference USA championship. The caliber of competition ECU has faced should certainly amount to good preparation for the league race which resumes this week.

One good thing about the Houston game is that the Pirates will still be fully in control of their fate in the C-USA East Division regardless of the outcome against the Cougars. Houston is in the West Division.

Even with a road loss at Houston, the Pirates would still be able to run the East Division table and play in the league championship game.

In that sense, the real season doesn't start until next week at Memphis. Despite the disappointment that the circumstances of the season thus far have dealt to the program and the fan base, ECU still has a lot of meaningful football to play this season.

E-mail Al Myatt

Al Myatt Archives

10/06/2011 03:12 AM


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