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Game No. 7: ECU 49, Rice 13


Inside Game Day
Saturday, October 17, 2009

By Al Myatt

Up next: Schedule quirks

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

GREENVILLE — Saturday is the traditional day for college football, but East Carolina is set to embark on the portion of its 2009 schedule that is anything but traditional.

Following a 49-13 homecoming rout of Rice on Saturday, the Pirates head into a stretch of made-for-television dates that will send them to Memphis for a Tuesday night game on Oct. 27 on ESPN2.

ECU will then get a nine-day break before hosting Virginia Tech on Thursday night, Nov. 5, on ESPN. Then there's a 10-day gap before a Sunday night game on Nov. 15 at Tulsa, which is also on ESPN.

"There's no one I can call to find out how to handle this," said ECU coach Skip Holtz. "There's not a formula for this."

But after the offense, defense and special teams contributed significantly to lift the Pirates to 4-3 overall and 3-1 in Conference USA, Holtz was ready to give the troops some down time.

"We finally finished a football game, which is something we've been waiting for all season," Holtz said. "I was really proud of the way we hung in there and competed."

The Pirates, who scored five points in the second half of their first three games, tallied three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, albeit against winless Rice.

"The way they came out and finished, I thought we should reward them with a couple of days away after this game," Holtz said.

The entire program has been going hard week after week with games on seven straight Saturdays dating back to Sept. 5.

"We need some time off," Holtz said. "It's been a long seven weeks. It's been a hard seven weeks. We went three-and-a-half weeks of camp. We reported to camp around the third or fourth of August — it seems like 2007.

"We reported August third or fourth and we've pretty much gone straight through. The coaches haven't had a day off. The players get their one day a week off. We need some time away."

ECU players will lift weights and run today (Sunday) before getting Monday and Tuesday off.

"I'll relax and visit some family," said Pirate defensive end C.J. Wilson — who was in on seven tackles and had a sack against Rice — of his plans for his free time. "I'll get my mind fresh and get hungry for another win."

Patrick Pinkney, who completed 18 of 26 passes against the Owls for 231 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, said he will use his extra time to get mentally prepared for Memphis.

"I'll watch a lot of film, rest and get healthy," Pinkney said.

The senior quarterback was sick and threw up during the Southern Methodist game last week. He said he still wasn't 100 percent against Rice. He said he didn't know if what he had was the H1N1 virus.

"It will feel good to get some rest," said wide receiver Dwayne Harris, whose effort against Rice included nine catches for 128 yards with two touchdown receptions. Harris also returned a kickoff 92 yards for a score.

The Pirates hope to get linebacker Jeremy Chambliss healthy before the Memphis game. Dominique Lindsay ran for 78 yards on 12 carries before sustaining an ankle injury on Saturday. His status was not clear following the Rice game.

Holtz changed the practice routine last week to address mistakes that had contributed to a 28-21 loss at SMU.

"We really pushed this football team hard here the last week with some of the mistakes that were made a week ago," Holtz said. " ... We practiced in pads Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, which is off the norm of what we normally do. We came out here, we went at it hard this week.

"The guys were really into it. Their attitude has been great. They want to be good and they understand with where we are that we stubbed our toe last week and we made some mistakes that are going to cost you a football game. I thought they bounced back tonight and they competed."

Holtz will try to keep his team in its routine as much as possible even though it won't play on a Saturday again until Nov. 21 in Greenville against UAB.

"We'll start on game day and count back seven days," Holtz said.

At that point the Pirates will be in their regular pattern of pregame preparation.

ECU won't be playing in a virtual vacuum as at SMU, when less than 14,000 were on hand. The Pirates had plenty of crowd energy to fuel their emotions against Rice as a crowd of 43,023 lent their support.

Now ECU heads into a trio of games with a lot more folks watching.

"It's always exciting when the country is watching," Harris said. "We want them to see what we can do on offense, defense and special teams. We want the world to see we're a team that can play with some of the best in the country."

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10/18/2009 04:33:23 AM


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