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East Carolina 99, South Florida 99
Saturday, Nov. 13, 2004
By Al Myatt
Story posted Sunday, Nov. 14, 2004

Ship of despair torpedoed in Tampa



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TAMPA — As country musician Jerry Reed once put it, "When you're hot, you're hot and when you're not, you're not."

South Florida is hot. East Carolina is not.

Temperatures were in the low 80s on Saturday afternoon before the Bulls stampeded past East Carolina 41-17 on a warm, breezy night at Raymond James Stadium.

Some of the cold facts for ECU:

 — The Pirates allowed 509 yards of total offense.

 — Andre Hall of the Bulls ran for 161 yards on 27 carries.

 — South Florida quarterback Pat Julmiste completed 12 of 16 passes for 233 yards and also ran for two scores.

 — The Bulls had five sacks.

 — ECU is 2-7 overall in 2004 and 3-18 in the John Thompson coaching era.

Look at the negativity of those numbers and it's no wonder that one of the few things that's up for the Pirates is the team's frustration level.

Pirate quarterback James Pinkney was obviously distraught as he came to the sideline late in the game.

"We're all very frustrated," Thompson said. "You bust your heart trying to do it and keep doing it and it doesn't happen and that's the way it is sometimes. But the only way we're ever going to fail is if we quit."

The loss of some capable receivers, season-ending injuries to two tight ends and a banged-up offensive line have challenged first-year offensive coordinator Noah Brindise.

"Sometimes you start thinking you're snakebit," Brindise said. "Art Brown gets hurt in the pregame — twists his knee. It's things like that. Art's going to be our starting running back and he gets hurt in pregame warm-ups. I never heard of that before."

Brindise is trying to be positive.

"Things are going to get better," he said. "I keep telling myself that because I don't know if they can get much worse."

Brindise is playing without a lot of personnel that was available at the outset of the season — tight end Shawn Levesque, tight end Sean Harmon, receiver Edwin Rios, receiver Damarcus Fox and receiver Bobby Good.

"There's a lot of pretty good playmakers right there," Brindise said. "It may take us a little while but I'm proud of the way guys fought. I'm proud of James (Pinkney). He's beat up. He's given his heart every single game.

"It stinks. It stinks for all of us. Losing sucks. We work hard. We're not getting the benefits right now. I feel bad for those guys."

Brindise said missed assignments hurt the Pirates on third-and-one at the South Florida 36-yard line on ECU's first possession and on third-and-goal at the South Florida 3 with about six minutes left in the first half.

An intentional grounding by Pinkney thwarted the first drive. Brindise said freshman Chris Johnson missed the rush end from the backside who applied pressure and forced Pinkney to throw the ball away. Brindise said he thought the intentional grounding penalty was a bad call.

A missed cut block on the Bulls end on third-and-goal — as Johnson was thrown for a 2-yard loss — brought on the field goal unit later in the first half. Brown had taken off too soon on an attempted dive into the end zone on second-and-goal at the one.

Reduced personnel have reduced Brindise's play selection.

"We have one tight end who plays and when you have one tight end you're limited in what you can do offensively," Brindise said. "You look back earlier and our tight ends were involved in the game plan a lot.

"It really limits you to what you can do formationally."

Brindise stopped short of using injuries as an excuse.

"I wouldn't say that," he said. "You guys (media) can say that. I'll tell you this. I feel like sometimes with the situation we're in that I need to call the perfect play most of the time. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. The guys are trying as hard as they can to execute but it's not working out right now."

Linebacker Chris Moore had a diving reception of a South Florida fumble that set up a trick play called by Brindise — a pass off a lateral to receiver Kevin Roach who uncorked a lofty fling to Johnson for first-and-goal at the South Florida 4 — following a facemask call — with the Bulls leading 10-0.

"If he had thrown it a little more on line, I think it would have been a touchdown," Brindise said. " I thought he (Johnson)was going to have to call a fair catch."

But the Pirates had to settle for three points instead of six.

The opportunity was created by Moore, who saw the loose ball in the air and made a flat out grab.

"It's gold in there," Moore said. "I saw it and I had to get it."

Moore did get it but ECU didn't have enough big plays to stay with the running of the Bulls in Tampa. The Pirates were not as competitive as a 38-37 double overtime loss to the Bulls in Greenville last year.

The Bulls have things the Pirates desire — a power running game, a vertical passing attack, an athletic and active defensive front, plus a huge step up in the form of a pending membership in the Big East Conference.

When Moore joined the program, ECU was in the midst of a run of three straight bowl trips.

"It hurts," Moore said. "I mean this program was one of the best in the nation. Now it seems like it's going downhill. We've got to bring it back up. We've got to end real strong the last two games and then we'll start off next year.

"We've got to end up strong."

Players and coaches aren't the only ones concerned about the loss of ECU's successful identity in football. A contingent of fans in the ECU section repeatedly chanted "Fire John Thompson." Some were saying "Hire Steve Logan," ECU's former coach.

Nothing will likely happen as far as a possible change in Thompson's status until after the season. The Pirates host Memphis on Saturday and then play N.C. State in Charlotte on the following Saturday.

Jamar Flournoy had a fumble return for an ECU score that pulled ECU within 24-10 midway through the third quarter and credited Wes Hofacker for causing the loose ball. ECU's other TD came on an 18-yard pass to Johnson with 8:43 remaining that gave Pinkney a touchdown aerial in nine straight games.

Pinkney said he deals with his frustration by looking forward to the next game.

"You just have to look forward to next week," said the sophomore from Delray Beach, Florida. "We look forward to Memphis now. We're at home and we look forward to having a good game."

Pinkney was asked about a counseling session with Brindise after he had shown his frustration.

"He said, 'Keep your head up. Keep working hard and keep believing,' " Pinkney said. "That's very important. We can't stop now. We've got to play hard every game."

The lights at Raymond James Stadium have shown on Super Bowl champions. On Saturday night the majestic structure rising above the commercial landscape off of Dale Mabry Highway, complete with a Pirate ship at one end, was the setting for an ECU team just looking for some light at the end of a losing tunnel.

"Coach Thompson said he's not going to quit," Pinkney said. "He's going to keep pushing us hard. I'm not going to quit either."


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02/23/2007 12:47:15 AM

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