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College Sports in the Carolinas


View from the East
Monday, October 13, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

A letdown 10 years in the making


What should East Carolina fans have expected on Saturday? Something different from North Carolina’s 28-17 win? Should they have expected victory from a team that didn’t have a touchdown pass and had allowed 90 points off of turnovers in its 0-5 start?

Halfway through the in-state showdown, the Pirates had given their supporters among a crowd of 44,040 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium reason to believe the outcome might be favorable for bragging rights over the next seven years — until the next time these programs meet in 2010.

ECU seemed to be stepping up to the significance of the occasion with a 10-7 lead as the teams filed off of Bagwell Field for the halftime break. But something must have happened at the half.

Maybe the Tar Heels remembered that they were the team from a Bowl Championship Series conference. Maybe they realized that the recruiting services tell us that they sign better talent every year. Someone may have reminded them that their athletics budget is more than double ECU’s. Perhaps UNC was just more determined to shed its winless status.

Meanwhile, within the Murphy Center, what happened to the Pirates? They had walked the walk and were talking the talk — and backing it up in the first 30 minutes. Marvin Townes had run for 85 yards and that didn’t include a 74-yard gallop called back for holding.

“I told everybody to play like it was still 0-0,” said ECU quarterback Desmond Robinson of his comments at the half.

Robinson had his best game despite indications that he might be replaced by James Pinkney if he struggled again. He was 13 for 17 for 125 yards with two touchdowns. But Robinson didn’t really have an explanation for what happened to ECU in the second half.

“We didn’t get it done,” he said. “ ... We’ve got to go back to the drawing board.”

ECU’s drawing board has been getting a lot of use this season.

“I just told this team that I’m proud of them,” said first-year ECU coach John Thompson in the aftermath of the Pirates’ disappointing second half on UNC’s first visit to Greenville. “They’re selling out, playing hard, but we keep making the same mistakes.”

Since 1993, ECU fans had been looking forward to UNC’s first visit to Greenville. In that year, Thompson was defensive coordinator at Southern Miss and pressure from the N.C. legislature forged the matchup between the Pirates and the Tar Heels.

Former ECU staff members Dave Huxtable, Jim Webster, Jim Fleming and Jeff Connors — now at UNC — knew what staging the battle east of I-95 meant. The Tar Heels came out of the locker room for the second half like they knew what it meant, too.

Yes, ECU fans have been looking forward to this game for 10 years, but who could blame them for wanting to forget about it as quickly as possible?


I haven’t heard from Steve Logan since last Dec. 6 but it’s funny how some axioms from the former ECU coach come to mind. You can decide their relevance.

For example:

“We’ve made a point not to lose two games in a row because once it starts heading in the other direction, it’s hard to turn around.”

“Virginia Tech stuck with Frank Beamer during some lean times and look what they’ve got. There’s great value to coaching continuity.”

“Beamer will tell you when they got in the Big East was when their program took off. He could get into living rooms (see recruits) he hadn’t been able to get into before.”

“A division has been created in college football between the conferences in the BCS and those that aren’t — and the kids (recruits) have figured it out.”

“He came to our summer camp and we offered him a scholarship. We think we can make a player out of him.”

“There’s always an adjustment period with a new quarterback. You get them off the field and everything has been happening so fast they can’t really tell you what they’re seeing. When everything starts slowing down for them is when your offense takes off.”

“There’s nothing wrong that a win won’t cure.”

On officiating

The officiating crew included Rosie Amato, the brother of N.C. State coach Chuck Amato, at umpire. Coach Thompson minimized the impact of Townes’ first-half scoring run that was called back for holding.

“We went down and got a field goal out of that drive,” he said. “We were moving the football and that happened. When we get that fumble (recovered by Erode Jean in the third quarter), we probably did pitch it forward. I thought the referee (Jack Childress) did a great job of officiating the game. The referee did.”

Thompson didn’t say anything about the rest of the crew.

On conditioning

Logan used to credit the importance of Connors’ conditioning program for ECU’s late-game success. UNC outscored the Pirates 21-7 in the second half and Thompson was asked if conditioning was a factor.

“I don’t think conditioning was a factor in the game,” he said. “They executed. We made mistakes. We made mistakes and they ran the ball better than we did in the second half. They executed and we had some drive-killing penalties. I think that was the biggest deal.”

On the rivalry and team attitude

“Both teams played their heart out,” Thompson said. “I know our team did. I’m proud of our football team. I’m disappointed. I hurt for them. I want to help them more. I’ve got to find a way to help ’em more. I hurt for this football team because they’re trying. They’re sticking together. They’re listening. They’re doing everything we ask them to do. They just deserve some success and we’re going to find a way to do it.”

Moore on the sideline episode

The intensity of the game was shown in a shoving incident on the UNC sideline after ECU’s Travis Heath ran Tar Heels tailback Willie Parker out of bounds in the first quarter. ECU inside linebacker Chris Moore, who led the Pirates with 10 tackles, gave his account:

“I went in to help Travis up and somebody pushed me and that’s when it started,” Moore said. “They don’t like us and we don’t like them so stuff like that is going to happen. It’s war.”

Late breaking ... ACC annexes BC

The ACC voted Sunday to invite Boston College as its 12th member, which could possibly have beneficial repercussions for East Carolina. BC’s exit from the Big East could open a slot for the Pirates in the Big East, although the New York Post has reported that the Big East also has informally discussed adding Army and Navy as football-only members.

It has generally been reported that the Big East is planning to add Louisville and Cincinnati from Conference USA. If BC’s departure opens up another slot, the Pirates and South Florida may be the primary candidates to fill it. Having 44,040 fans for a matchup of winless teams on Saturday is a feather in ECU’s cap.

C-USA also could be subjected to raids of its southwestern teams by the WAC and of non-football members Charlotte and Saint Louis by the Atlantic 10. C-USA has also discussed adding teams from among a group that includes Rice, Southern Methodist, Central Florida, Tulsa and Marshall to fill any vacancies that might be created in the changing landscape of conference affiliation.

C-USA presidents and chancellors are scheduled to meet on Wednesday.

The Eagles will join the ACC for the 2004-05 academic year if all the pending formalities are completed. That will presumably enable division play and a profitable championship game next football season.


Here’s how the Division I-A teams in the Carolinas stack up:

  1. South Carolina (4-2, 1-2 SEC) ... Gamecocks get a Thursday night win over Kentucky.

  2. Clemson (4-2, 2-1 ACC) ... Tigers regroup for a 30-27 overtime victory against Virginia.

  3. N.C. State (4-3, 1-2 ACC... Wolfpack beats UConn with a late interception return.

  4. Wake Forest (3-3, 1-2 ACC) ... Deacons can’t get running game going against Georgia Tech.

  5. Duke (2-4, 0-3 ACC) ... Blue Devils lose another ACC contest, 33-20 at Maryland.

  6. North Carolina (1-5, 0-3 ACC) ... Tar Heels get it going in second half at ECU.

  7. East Carolina (0-6, 0-2 C-USA) ... Pirates take on another winless team at Army.

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02/23/2007 12:41:30 AM

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