View from the East
Thursday, October 10, 2013

By Al Myatt

Al Myatt

Ruff celebrates 55th

Coach Ruffin McNeill awaits an interview at ECU's Media Day in August. (Al Myatt photo)

Ruff celebrates 55th


Pirates head 'home' to the bayou

Audio: Pirate Radio 1250
The Brian Bailey Show airs on Pirate Radio 1250 on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. Brian's guest was Duane Price: Replay show...
Audio: The Steve Logan Show
The Steve Logan Show airs on FM 103.7 and FM 94.1 each Monday from 6-8 p.m. Replay last night's show: Select clip...
Audio: Coach Ruff Weekly Presser
Coach Ruffin McNeill discussed the Pirates' win over Middle Tennessee State and previewed the Tulane game: Select clip...

C-USA players of the week


Pirates not sharp, but sharp enough


Won and done with Raiders



Tick, tick, tick... Time is running out to get your print or digital copy of the 2013 Bonesville The Magazine...


By Al Myatt
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Wednesday was the 55th birthday of East Carolina football coach Ruffin McNeill and it was pretty much business as usual.

McNeill is feeling pretty youthful with the Pirates off to a 4-1 start.

"What keeps me young is being around the kids," he said amid preparations for a 3:30 p.m. game Saturday at Tulane, which will match a pair of teams with 2-0 Conference USA records.

"They keep you young and keep you spry," said the ECU coach of his players. "If I ever stop doing that, I'm sure I'll feel old, but they don't allow you. You better be on edge with them. It's all good."

McNeill is 2-0 on his birthday as a Pirate. As a freshman in 1976, ECU thrashed Southern Illinois, 49-14.

In his first year as head coach in 2010, the Pirates were 44-43 winners at Southern Miss on Oct. 9.

"People have been very nice and brought things I can't eat right now," McNeill said. "I wish I could. The cake. The brownies. I'm very thankful and blessed to be in a place that I love and be able to do a job that I love."

His staff got the birthday goodies.

Comparing to Texas Tech

McNeill was on staff at Texas Tech from 2000 to 2010. The Red Raiders never had a losing record during that span and finished in the Top 25 in five of his last six seasons there.

ECU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley was among the staff members McNeill brought with him from Lubbock, TX.

One college football ratings system, the Colley Matrix, has the Pirates presently ranked at No. 29.

"You see some traits," McNeill said when asked to compare the two programs. "I don't think we're quite there yet. We've got some things that are really, really similar, but I think if we continue the progress, we could maybe be equal or surpass what they did because of what we've done from the ground up, offensively, scheme-wise, and with Rick (Smith, defensive coordinator), defensive-wise, and with Kirk (Doll, special teams coordinator).

"All three of those sides are operating at a frenzied pace. We're trying to get where all three sides are feeding off of one another simultaneously.

"We did that quite a bit that year."

McNeill was referring to the 2008 season at Texas Tech, which produced an 11-2 record and included a 39-33 win over then-No. 1 Texas on Nov. 1.

Blue Raiders were physical

Middle Tennessee State was a physical football team, a factor that was apparent during a 24-17 ECU win in Murfreesboro, TN, last Saturday.

"We knew that going into the game," said the Pirates coach. "We had a chance to watch them when we were watching UNC because they played them early in the year. When you're watching UNC, you can't help but notice the team they're playing against.

"I watch all three sides of the ball. I was able to watch their defense versus UNC, their offense versus UNC and their special teams versus UNC. I had a chance to watch them the week before in preparing for the UNC game.

"After the UNC game, my mind went right to the next one because I knew Rick (Stockstill, MTSU head coach) has been there. He's been there eight years. He has his own kids in place.

"He's been very successful and he's got a great staff. I knew we'd be facing a really good football team and we did."

McNeill's exit from the field at MTSU was different than when he walked out of Kenan Stadium following a 55-31 win in Chapel Hill.

McNeill was a humble winner over the Tar Heels. He fist pumped, yelled and was high fiving fans on the way to the locker room after subduing the Blue Raiders.

"Because it showed growth in our program," he said of his reaction to the latter triumph. "I was very proud of that. Big, emotional win. Tough week. The kids were getting pats on the back because (UNC) was a big win for us. You know, 38 years (since ECU's last win in Chapel Hill). We understood that time frame. Playing a tough team, a really well-coached team, a conference division game on the road in a tough environment and we were able to come through in a situation where, earlier, we may or may not have been able to come through.

"What was pleasing to me was the team being able to fight through things in those situations. ... With me, it's always about the kids. I was pleased to see them and the coaches be able to do that."

'C.J.' and Ruff have history

Second-year Tulane coach Curtis Johnson and McNeill have known each other for some time. Johnson was on staff at Miami when the Hurricanes won the national championship in 2001 and also won a Super Bowl as a member of the New Orleans Saints staff to cap the 2009 season.

"C.J. has always been a very good recruiter as well as being a good coach and he's a better person," McNeill said. "You can find some really good players in Louisiana. That was my area for a lot of years and C.J. recruited that area, too, when he was at Miami. He lived there when he was with the Saints so he understands those kids. He is getting some really good kids in there."

Nick Montana, the son of the legendary former San Francisco 49er quarterback, Joe Montana, is the Green Wave quarterback. Nick Montana started his career at Washington, transferred to a junior college and is a redshirt junior for Tulane. He has completed 102 of 183 passes for 1,116 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. Wave back Orleans Darkwa has run 85 times for 347 yards with six scores.

"He's getting some really good talent in there and he's doing a great job of coaching 'em up," McNeill said. "You can tell Nick Montana has been trained by one of the best in the game. ... He understands the game and has a great savvy about him. He can make the throws. He can scramble and extend plays. He's a really good football player."

ECU quarterback Shane Carden is also the son of a former professional athlete. His dad, Jay, was a minor league baseball pitcher. The younger Carden has connected on 157 of 214 passes for 1,537 yards with 12 TDs and four picks.

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10/10/2013 06:16 AM