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View from the East
Friday, November 9, 2012

By Al Myatt

Al Myatt

Open date, not an off week

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

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For the first time since the season opener on Sept. 1, East Carolina has a week without a football game, but don't get the idea that the program has put up a closed sign and is taking the week off.

"It's good to have it and we needed it," Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill said on Wednesday. "It really came at a good time for us. We've got some guys who are nicked and banged up. I hope we can get them back by next week for the Tulane game. The open date helps expedite that process. We didn't practice Sunday. We gave them the normal Monday off."

McNeill had routine practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The Thursday workout focused on fundamentals for the guys who are getting the majority of playing time.

A 35- to 40-play scrimmage was planned for players who have not been getting a lot of action on game days.

"The Lance Rays, Antonio Cannon, Chris Hairston, Josh Hawkins — those guys who haven't gotten a ton of reps, we'll have a scrimmage for those guys," McNeill said.

Seven members of the coaching staff hit the road this week on Wednesday to recruit. They are scheduled to be back in Greenville on Saturday.

McNeill, offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley and defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell have remained in the football office to supervise practice, along with the graduate assistants.

"Sunday will be normal Sunday prep for Tulane," McNeill said.

The time between games will also have academic value.

"Classroom catch up," McNeill said. "We'll have treatment for mind and body and continue our lifting process with coach (Jeff) Connors."

Tulane will have ECU's attention

After an 0-5 start, Tulane has won two of its last four games.

"They throw the football well," McNeill said of ECU's Nov. 17 opponent in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

The ECU coach noted that first-year Green Wave coach Curtis Johnson was with the New Orleans Saints in 2009 for their Super Bowl triumph.

"C.J. was there with Coach (Sean) Payton for years. They do a good job moving the football. We're definitely not overlooking Tulane. Our focus this week in practice, we expose our team to Tulane in bits and pieces. Sunday, we'll dive full bore into them and have a week of preparation, of course. They're a team that we have to make sure we're ready to go and have our same focus and intensity that we had versus Houston."

Houston win a 'life lesson'

After a 56-28 loss to Navy, a 48-28 win over Houston in which the Pirates had 550 yards of total offense was just what the doctor ordered.

"It was a life lesson, for not just the players but for us as adults," McNeill said. "You deal with adversity in life. You can handle adversity two ways. You can lay down and take it or you can meet it and face it eyeball to eyeball. Our kids did that. Our staff did that. Our group did that, so outside of football, it was a life lesson. You keep fighting back. You never quit and you never give up.

"It was a real lift for our program. Besides a football coach, I'm a Pirate. When we don't do well as a team, I take it personally, as well as any of the fans do. ... We wanted to make sure we came out and played the best game that we could and I think we were close. We wanted to make sure we improved on all three sides of the ball. We did that and I was very proud of the group."

Weather gives ECU a helping hand

The Pirates have had some challenging circumstances in terms of weather at the home games this season. Several hundred people were treated for heat-related symptoms at the season opener against Appalachian State, there was a delay of play in the Texas-El Paso game due to an electrical cell, and peripheral rain from Super Storm Sandy made for a miserable day when ECU matched up with Navy.

Sunny, clear conditions were welcomed for the Houston game.

"It was great to have a great day to play so our fans could enjoy it," McNeill said. "Our players and coaches could go out and not worry about deadly heat or lightning delays or hurricane warnings. It's been a different type of year. The fans are a 12th player at our home games on each side of the football. Having a full 12th player really helps us in momentum, enthusiasm and the total package. It was great to have a great day in Dowdy-Ficklen. We were very happy to get the win for our program, our players and coaches and for our fans."

There should be no worries about the weather next week at Tulane.

"That will be good to play in a controlled environment," McNeill said. "I'm sure they'll have great turf down there. I haven't ever coached in the Superdome, but I'm looking forward to going down there. I've had some coaching convention meetings in the area. ... It's a controlled environment, so weather won't be a factor. We'll be able to go and play and be ready to perform at our best level, better than we did last week."

Ruff's movie review

The Pirates saw "Flight" with Denzel Washington the Friday night before the Houston game. Washington plays Whip Whitaker, a pilot who makes a heroic landing when his plane has mechanical problems but must deal with the fallout when tests show alcohol and drugs in his system.

"I loved it," McNeill said. "I'm a movie buff. It was intense from beginning to end and had you pulling for the character. You're disappointed in the character and then proud of the character. ... I love those type of movies that tug at you a little bit."

The Pirates won't be taking in a movie as a team this week due to the open date.

"I'll find something to watch at home," McNeill said.

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11/08/2012 10:48 AM


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