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Ship on the rocks

By Al Myatt

The post-game
slants as penned
by staff writer
Al Myatt.

Game No. 9 Vitals: ECU at Memphis

Ship on the rocks
Promising start fizzles in second half
Box Score & Statistics
C-USA Standings, Scores, Schedule

The numbers aren’t pretty, the situation is bleek and it is likely to get worse before it gets better. That’s East Carolina football, 2003.

ECU sank to 1-8 when it appeared to leave its game in the Liberty Bowl locker room at halftime on Saturday and Memphis pulled away from a tie at 17 to smite the Pirates 41-24.

ECU hasn’t been 1-8 since the 1957 team avoided going winless by topping host Presbyterian 6-0 the last game of the season.

(Editor's note: In practical terms, the Pirates also started out 1-8 in 1986, but a loss to Temple during that stretch was ultimately transformed into a win by forfeit because of NCAA-mandated sanctions on the Owls having to do with an ineligible player.)

ECU has never lost 11 games in a season but will likely be an underdog in its last three games as it tries to avoid that scenario. At Duke or North Carolina when such a demise besets the gridders, the fans simply focus on basketball. That’s never been the attitude at ECU. Football is the flagship program.

This year the flagship has taken a broadside hit at the water line.

The schedule says next week is homecoming, an occasion that has produced a 40-8 record for the Pirates since 1955. But this year the opponent is South Florida, which has probably snatched the spot in the Big East Conference that had ECU’s name on it. They say there’s no point in comparing scores in football but the Bulls just topped a Cincinnati team that manhandled the Pirates 40-3 earlier this year.

There may be some dandy excuses when tickets for the South Florida game are offered this week.

“Uh, I’ve got to rake the leaves.”

“They’re showing Gilligan’s Island all weekend on TV Land. Wouldn’t want to miss that.”

“I need to spend some quality time with my mother-in-law.”

I guess I’m too negative. The company line is that the players are working hard and improving. The coaches are doing a great job of teaching and motivating. Steve Logan detractors say we’re seeing the results of diminished recruiting productivity in recent years.

There were some bright spots Saturday. Damarcus Fox had a kickoff return for a touchdown. Former walk-on Richard Hourigan had seven catches for 77 yards. James Pinkney threw his first touchdown pass and went 9 of 16 for 109 yards after Desmond Robinson struggled and then was injured.

The Pirates fans among the crowd announced at 40,000-plus probably enjoyed some of the local entertainment opportunities — Beale Street, ribs at the Rendezvous, dog racing in Arkansas, gambling in Tunica County, Mississippi. They probably even enjoyed the game — for the first half.

Paul Troth, who is within 12 yards of moving into eighth on the ECU career passing yardage list and needs one completion to move into seventh place, knows where he stands — third on the depth chart and getting keel-hauled into oblivion. Troth played when ECU went 4-8 last season. Funny, but 4-8 is looking better all the time.

Memphis had too many sacks on Saturday. The Pirates ran for too few yards. ECU took a step backward in the turnover department as well, committing three. It’s tough for any team to play with freshman cornerbacks but ECU has become a land of opportunity for ambitious high school players. Hopefully, John Thompson and staff will pluck some blue chippers.

College football is cyclical. ECU has hit a down cycle but it happens, even to the nationally-prominent. How about Miami? The Hurricanes were beat worse than the Pirates on Saturday. It’s all in the perspective, I suppose.

A new practice week is ahead and homecoming has always been special at ECU. The loyal fans will be there, God bless ’em. Maybe the Pirates will respond appropriately.

Send an e-mail message to Denny O'Brien.

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This page updated: 02/23/2007 12:40:15 AM.

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