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College Sports in the Carolinas


View from the East
Friday, October 10, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Hey, hey, EC, in 1963, comes full circle


When North Carolina comes to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for a 3:38 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, the Tar Heels will be the fourth and final team from the ACC's "Big Four" to play in Greenville. East Carolina is 3-0 in first visits from Wake Forest, Duke and N.C. State.

Wake was the first ACC team to agree to play in Greenville and the Demon Deacons made the trip east on Sept. 21, 1963 for the dedication game at Ficklen Stadium. Tom Michel was a fullback in the single wing offense of Pirates coach Clarence Stasavich.

"They had one side of the stadium done," Michel said. "They didn't have any dressing facilities. They had a tent outside that we used for a dressing room. It was nighttime and about 90 degrees."

There were 17,000 fans on hand as the Pirates defeated the Deacons 20-10. Michel said Wake's Brian Piccolo scored the first points in the new stadium on a field goal. Michel scored the first touchdown and scored two more for the Pirates.

"We ran a buck lateral series in the single wing," said Michel, who has worked for the U.S. Post Office for 33 years in Greenville. "There was a direct snap to me at fullback and I faked a handoff to the blocking back. Then the blocking back faked a pitch to the tailback.

"Every time we ran that, their linebackers were reading that fake. They were looking at the tailback and I was running the ball. In the same series I handed the ball to the blocking back and bent over and ran like I had the ball. They were hitting me and the tailback was already past me with the ball on the pitch."

Michel recalled that he ran for 120 yards.

"That was a big win and it always will be because that was the first time an ACC team came to Greenville," Michel said.

Coincidently, Michel said the construction at Ficklen Stadium at that time had been done by a Durham company, Crain and Denbo. Michel married Jean Crain, niece of the company's co-owner, Harold Crain.

"I met my wife in the cafeteria at East Carolina and she beat me in a food fight," he said.

Michel's son, Billy, was an offensive lineman at ECU from 1986-88. The younger Michel played on the ECU team that won 32-14 at N.C. State in 1987 when a postgame celebration led to the suspension of the series by the Wolfpack.

"That was a big win and there have been many over the years," Michel said. "That win over Wake Forest in 1963 was among the biggest, too."

Blue Devils, Wolfpack come calling

The 1999 season was a special one for the Pirates. It opened with a 30-23 win over West Virginia in Charlotte. ECU won 21-3 over a Lou Holtz team at South Carolina. There was the 27-23 comeback win over Miami that year, a game played at NCSU's Carter-Finley Stadium because of the effects of Hurricane Floyd in Greenville.

Duke and State played for the first time at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium during that 9-3 season.

Jeff Kerr was a senior linebacker and Kevin Monroe was a senior cornerback in an attacking scheme that defensive coordinator Tim Rose had brought to the program.

The Blue Devils were ECU's first home game after the win over West Virginia. It was Sept. 11, 1999.

"The reason I was so adamant about that game was that they (Duke) had recruited me and all of a sudden I was dropped," Kerr said. "That gave me an inspiration to play harder."

Kerr knocked Duke quarterback Spencer Romine out of the game with a separated shoulder on a fumble-causing fourth quarter blitz. Norris McCleary recovered and sophomore David Garrard threw to Rashon Burns for ECU's final score. Kerr finished with a team-high seven tackles, including two sacks, as ECU won 27-9. It was the first game at Duke for new Blue Devils coach Carl Franks, whose "Airborne offense" was curtailed by the Pirates.

"Forrest Foster and I were the corners and we took it as a challenge," Monroe said. "Duke had some good receivers, Richmond Flowers and Scottie Montgomery, but they couldn't get it going like they wanted to."

The crowd of 42,052 for that Duke game is the third largest at Dowdy-Ficklen.

"Anytime you get a crowd of 40-some thousand, it really hypes you up," Kerr said. "The Miami game at N.C. State was under different circumstances but you play harder. You bring your A game. I'm sure that's what they're going to do this weekend. I feel Carolina will also bring their A game."

Kerr works for former ECU strength and conditioning coach Jeff Connors at UNC. With the Pirates changing sidelines this season, Kerr will be standing on familiar ground when the Tar Heels visit Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

State made its initial entrance to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Nov. 20, 1999.

"Miami was the toughest game we played that year but there was pressure from the fans, Coach (Steve) Logan and the staff to beat State," Monroe said. "It was definitely one of the most pressured situations I've been in in college football.

" For one thing, State had a lot of talent. Chris Coleman was a wide receiver who went on to play in the pros. Koren Robinson was a sophomore. He's now in the NFL. They had Bryan Peterson, a good receiver from Clinton. It was a tough game for cornerbacks and safeties. Jamie Barnette was their quarterback. It was tough all game long. They had opportunities to make plays."

But the Wolfpack had just six points to show for four trips inside ECU's 15-yard line. The Pirates blocked two field goals and Kerr blocked a conversion attempt after State's only score. ECU won 23-6 before a stadium record crowd of 50,092. It was Logan's 51st career win at ECU moving him past Stasavich for the most in school history.

"Coach Rose had them off balance," Monroe said. "I went on a couple of corner blitzes. It was a big game for me personally because we had beaten them in 1996 in Charlotte and lost in 1997 in Raleigh. I wanted to finish my career with a winning record against N.C. State.

"There was a lot of pressure. The coaches didn't usually say, 'You've got to win this game' but we felt like we had to to get the respect we felt like we deserved. That win made us 9-2 and got us into a bowl. It was a great feeling."

Garrard led ECU offensively, completing 11 of 15 passes for 156 yards. He rushed for 101 yards on 20 carries as the Pirates effectively ran the option.

That was the last game for Coach Mike O'Cain at State, which finished 6-6 and missed a bowl. O'Cain was dismissed the following week and the Chuck Amato era began the following January.

The game at hand

It's been called the game of the weak since both ECU and UNC are 0-5. It will likely be anything but that. It will be homecoming for a number of former ECU coaches who are now on the UNC staff — Connors, Dave Huxtable, Jim Fleming and Jim Webster. Asked if he thought he would have mixed emotions on the UNC sideline, Kerr said, "I better not comment on that."

He did say that UNC coach John Bunting has emphasized the importance of sticking to the game plan.

Monroe will be on the ECU sideline as a reporter for the Pirate radio network. He recently began working for CapTrust in Raleigh, advising athletes on their financial management. Ironically, one of CapTrust's clients is Koren Robinson, one the State receivers Monroe helped defend in Greenville in 1999.

"I'm confident but concerned about this game," Monroe said. "It makes me feel good that we started showing we could run the ball against Houston because Carolina has trouble stopping the run. I'm concerned because they can throw the ball and we've had some difficulties defending the pass.

"But I'm hoping we can hang on and pull it out at the end. The game being in Greenville helps us. Maybe the fans can will ECU through."

Fan support has helped the Pirates when other members of the Big Four made their first trip Down East. None have gone home winners.

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02/23/2007 12:41:29 AM

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