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Sept. 8, 2012 | Williams-Brice Stadium | Columbia, SC | Attendance: 77,006

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Inside Game Day
Saturday, September 8, 2012

By Al Myatt

Pirates get their kicks

By Al Myatt
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COLUMBIA, SC — In a 48-10 loss at No. 9 South Carolina on Saturday, East Carolina's struggles seemed to greatly outnumber its highlights, but Pirates punter Trent Tignor continued to be a positive factor with his booming boots.

Five ECU possessions were short-circuited by turnovers but when the Pirates stalled and Tignor came in to do his thing, the junior from the Atlanta area had a 46.4-yard average on five punts with a longest of 53 yards.

That followed up a performance against Appalachian State in whch Tignor averaged 44.5 yards on four punts with a longest of 58 yards.

"I'm very proud of Trent," said ECU coach Ruffin McNeill. "Watching Trent coming out of high school we felt he could be a specialist and contribute defensively for us, changing the field position. The first years, I don't know if he conceded the job, but this year he has taken advantage of his opportunities. He's punted great these first two games. ... He's also our (placekick) holder. He does a good job for (kicker) Warren (Harvey)."

Tignor said there's no secret to his development.

"Throughout the whole process since I got here, it's been a daily grind, working day by day, trying to become better," he said. "Punting is a craft. Coach Ruff talks all the time about us perfecting our craft. They call 'em specialists for a reason. It's a special talent that we possess for us to go out there and execute it the way the coaches want it."

Ben Ryan averaged 40.0 yards per punt last season. The school season record is 48.1 yards per punt by Andrew Bayes in 1999.

"I think it's just focus," Tignor said of his emergence this season. "Not saying that I haven't been focused in the past, it's more of a concentrated focus now. I've done a lot of praying about it. Prayer has helped out a lot, too. Honestly, it's about as simple as that. The miracle of prayer has worked out for the better."

Tignor has such a feel for the football that he can bounce one off the ground and back into his grasp, a difficult task given the shape of the pigskin.

"I actually picked that up from the University of Georgia punter, Drew Butler, back when he was punting at UGa," Tignor said. "I would go to games when I was going through the recruiting process. I saw him doing that on the sidelines so it was something that I went back to high school practice and started to do. ... It's something that I do to occupy time but at the same time it's helping with my hands whether it's holding for field goals or whether it's catching snaps for punts. It's constantly working with the ball and being one with the ball. It helps a lot when you've got to handle it."

After Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks threw a 51-yard pass for the game's final score with 54 seconds to play, there was little more the Pirates could do than start getting ready for their Conference USA opener at Southern Miss next week.

"We're looking forward to next week," Tignor said. " ... It's our team goal to win a conference championship. We have a mindset to go out there and beat the competition. ... We would have liked to have won this game but this wasn't a conference opponent and Southern Miss is next week. We're going to be doing a lot of preparation and film work this upcoming week."

Problems in the punting game were significant in a 48-28 loss to the Golden Eagles last season in Greenville. Phil McNaughton, getting a start in place of Ryan, who had averaged 32.0 yards per punt the previous week, had one boot returned for a touchdown and another blocked for a score.

"We're going to take what has been done in the past and improve upon it," Tignor said. "We're going to learn from our mistakes. ... We're going to get in the film room and watch how they do some certain things and go from there."

ECU specialists train with strength and conditioning coach Jeff Connors.

"For the most part, we do what the rest of the team does," Tignor said.

The ECU punter does extra workouts that relate to keeping his right leg limber.

"It's really important for us to maintain our flexibilities," Tignor said. "Coach Connors knows that. He's been in the program longer than anyone. He's an expert. He's going to have us ready for the game on Saturday."

Tignor was recruited by Mark Nelson, the first special teams coordinator on McNeill's ECU staff. Auburn, Richmond, Clemson, Georgia and Georgia Tech were among the schools Tignor was interested in. Tignor aims high — just like the trajectory of his punts — when it comes to academics and his career aspirations.

"When it came down to it, I ended up choosing a place that fit what I wanted to do academically," Tignor said. "I have a long term goal of becoming the CEO of Coca-Cola one day. I've met with the dean of the business college at East Carolina. I heard what his philosophies were. I really loved the program academically. The support around the town is unbelievable. I equate Greenville, North Carolina, to Athens (GA). Athens is a big college town and so is Greenville. It's really great to have the support of all the fans."

Tignor's dad, Chuck, is a human resources manager for a computer software company in Atlanta. His mom, Robin, is a certified public accountant. Tignor is majoring in accounting and is a Dean's List student.

"I have a plan to get a second degree in finance as well, taking my knowledge from the business programs at East Carolina and advancing them forward into the future," Tignor said.

Short kick extends long streak

Before quarterback Shane Carden came off the bench to direct a drive to the South Carolina 6-yard line for a 23-yard field goal by Warren Harvey with 1:44 left in the third quarter, ECU was in danger of being shut out for the first time since a 56-0 loss at Syracuse on Oct. 4, 1997, a span of 181 games.

"We were fortunate not to be shut out," said Harvey, who had the distance on an earlier 46-yard attempt that was wide. "As far as field goals go, you go through it in practice and you come out there with the same mindset every time. Regardless of whatever happened the first kick, it doesn't matter on the next one. Unfortunately, I've missed a few kicks but you keep looking forward and looking for that next field goal."

The field goal unit with C.J. Struyk snapping, Tignor holding and Harvey kicking seeks to fulfill McNeill's concept of 11-man football.

"We try to get as many kicks as we can during the week trying to get ready for the games," Harvey said.

Charlie Coggins does the snapping on punts. Their efforts come under the auspices of first-year special teams coordinator Kirk Doll, who worked on a national championship staff at LSU. An ECU alumnus who played on the 1972 Southern Conference champions, Doll has coached at Notre Dame and for the Denver Broncos of the NFL in an extensive career.

"He's a great coach," Harvey said. "I've loved having the opportunity to work with him so far. He brings a lot of knowledge and experience to the game. I can already see a huge difference in how far our special teams have come from season to season. I'm excited to work for him for the next few years."

Harvey has some big shoes to fill as Michael Barbour had field goals of 53, 57 and 58 yards last season.

"Barbour was a fantastic kicker," Harvey said. "He did an awesome job here. He had a ton of deep kicks. ... I just come out here every game with a fresh start and do the best I can."

Moving on to Southern Miss

The last time ECU went to South Carolina produced a 21-3 win over the Gamecocks in 1999. The Pirates had to remain in Columbia the following week because of flooding back in Greenville from Hurricane Floyd.

ECU radio and Bonesville analyst Kevin Monroe was a senior defensive back on that team, which beat Miami in Raleigh 27-23 the following week.

Monroe shared some thoughts about what will be important as this year's team prepares for its next game.

"The first game against Appalachian State maybe wasn't the level of competition they need to be used to," Monroe said. "They'll come out of this game knowing they've got a long way to go to be the quality of opponent that South Carolina is. They'll get back into conference and the conference season is a lot different. They'll be evenly-matched against a lot of these teams. Southern Miss, they match up well against. It'll be a little bit better ball game but they have to be confident coming out of there, knowing that this game doesn't dictate what the rest of the season is going to bring.

"They can still win the conference. They can still do a lot of things. They just have to go back to the drawing board and not turn the football over."

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09/09/2012 04:20:24 AM


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