CHRONICLING EAST CAROLINA & CONFERENCE USA SPORTS
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View from the East
Thursday, October 17, 2013

By Al Myatt

Al Myatt

Last chance against a nemesis

 

Last chance against a nemesis

 

Fifteen Questions for Trent Tignor

 

Pirates not playing blame game

 
Audio: Coach Ruff Weekly Presser
Coach Ruffin McNeill discussed the Pirates' loss to Tulane and previewed the Southern Miss game: Select clip...
 
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...
 

Tidewater pipeline still flowing

 

Fans take social media too far

 

Conference USA at a glance

 

The Big Easy too difficult for Pirates

 

Audio: Ruff & players post-game...

 

Hoops recruiting thumbnails: F Grant Bryant & G Bunyon 'B.J.' Tyson...

 

This week in college football history

 

 

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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There are a couple of trends at play as East Carolina hosts Southern Miss on Saturday for a noon kickoff at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

The Golden Eagles have lost 17 games in a row, an unfathomable streak for a program that has been close to unbeatable in Greenville.

USM is 15-3 when playing on East Carolina's turf.

ECU's home wins came in 1976 (48-0), 1994 (31-10) and 2009 (25-20).

Since the Pirates first met Southern Miss in Greenville in 1966, they have averaged a win at home over their visiting nemesis about once every 14 years.

The matchup has a little different ratio in Hattiesburg, where the Pirates have taken eight of 20, including a 24-14 win last season.

Obviously, ECU needs to continue Southern Miss's more recent trend, not USM's historic road success.

Since coach Larry Fedora jilted the Golden Eagles for greener pastures in Chapel Hill after a 12-2 season in 2011, Southern Miss has been running a reverse on a once-rugged football tradition.

A string of 18 straight winning seasons for USM came to an end with an 0-12 record last year. Incredibly, the Golden Eagles were the only Football Bowl Subdivision team without a win in 2012.

Ellis Johnson was dismissed as coach after one year and Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken was charged with pumping up the flat tire that has become Southern Miss football.

Think anyone with a sense of ECU's football past is taking this game lightly?

Think again.

Southern Miss has been a testimony to the enabling affects of a Southeastern Conference environment.

The Hattiesburg campus is located at roughly the midpoint between Alabama and LSU, about a three-hour drive from each.

Kids who grew up with the dream of playing for the Crimson Tide or the Bayou Bengals and had to settle for Southern Miss, still had pretty good grooming for football success.

They also had something to prove for being overlooked by the big boys. They have been one tough little brother with bowl trips to cap 14 of 15 campaigns before last year's U-turn to disaster. Southern Miss has won four Conference-USA championships.

For 16 years, former USM quarterback Jeff Bower coached the program (from 1991 to 2007) and the formula was based on a power running game, capable quarterbacks and a sledgehammer defense.

When Bower was shown the door, Fedora opened up the offense with a degree of effectiveness.

But since Fedora bolted, USM has lost the recipe for success.

The offense is still spread out. The punishing run game is a memory. The monsters on defense apparently have given way to a more docile group.

Still, this is Southern Miss.

This is the program that waylaid an ECU team coached by the iconic Clarence Stasavich by a score of 65-0 in 1968. It's the program that produced legendary quarterback Brett Favre a decade before the millennium.

It's the program that came to Greenville to play an ECU team that was 5-0 in 1999. The Pirates had wins over West Virginia in Charlotte and Miami of Florida in Raleigh. ECU had David Garrard at quarterback in his pre-NFL days and the Golden Eagles won, 39-22. Derrick Nix ran for 171 yards for the Golden Eagles and Leo Barnes had a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown with 3:15 left to play. ECU had a 15-3 lead in that game.

That was one of seven straight wins in Greenville for Southern Miss.

The Pirates stopped the streak in 2009 when Belhaven's own C.J. Wilson, now with the Green Bay Packers, blocked a conversion attempt and returned it to the East end zone for two points in a 25-20 ECU win.

ECU was victimized by its turnovers and special teams breakdowns in a 48-28 loss to Southern Miss at home in 2011.

So where are the two teams going into what appears to be their final meeting for the foreseeable future with ECU going to the American Athletic Conference next year?

Monken is aware of the history of the series but his more immediate concern is making an overdue scratch in the win column.

The Golden Eagles have had an open date since a 24-23 home loss to Florida International two weeks ago.

The value of a bye week was shown when the Pirates came off a 15-10 home loss to Virginia Tech this year and beat North Carolina 55-31 with an extra week to prepare.

ECU is coming off a disappointing 36-33 triple overtime loss at Tulane. The Pirates still control their fate in C-USA's East Division race but can't afford to stumble again.

ECU failed to make the routine plays that coach Ruffin McNeill preaches about at several critical junctures in New Orleans.

After three straight weeks on the road, McNeill was looking forward to playing before the energy that 50,000 fans can generate.

All three sides of the ball need to work together. Quarterback Shane Carden needs to get the ball in the hands of playmakers such as Vintavious Cooper and Justin Hardy. The offensive line needs to protect Carden and create running lanes. The front seven on defense needs to continue its impressive work. The secondary needs to step up and continue the Golden Eagles' tendency toward turnovers.

Special teams needs to do whatever it takes to avoid a disastrous repeat of the 2011 matchup when a blocked punt and a punt return resulted in USM touchdowns.

The number of ECU players who can claim to be a part of a win over Southern Miss in Greenville is relatively small.

The last chance to earn that distinction will be on the line Saturday.

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10/17/2013 12:41 AM
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