NEWS, NOTES &
Friday, December 1, 2006
By Bethany Bradsher
Pirates chasing a demon in
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American sports fans love to tally up streaks:
most games in a row with a reception, longest home winning streak, most
overtime games against a team that wears blue jerseys.
But this, Pirate fans, is one streak that is
begging to be broken.
East Carolina is 0-9 on Alabama soil, and 0-4 in
the cavernous environs of Legion Field. A victory against (insert
undetermined Big East opponent here) on Dec. 23 will exorcise plenty of War
Eagle, Tide and Blazer demons from Pirate teams past.
In the spirit of turning things around as ECU
prepares for its next Birmingham challenge, I offer a look back at the some
of the low points of previous Pirate excursions into the Heart of Dixie:
Dec. 9, 2001 – GMAC
Bowl in Mobile. In an ironic bit of foreshadowing, ECU quarterback David
Garrard faced off against Byron Leftwich, whom he would later battle for
the starting job with the Jacksonville Jaguars. On this night, though,
Leftwich overshadowed his eventual backup, throwing for 576 yards to
Garrard’s 161 and leading the Thundering Herd to a 64-61 double-overtime
A trifecta of
heartbreak at Auburn’s Jordan Hare Stadium. The Pirates played there
three times in ten years and came out on the losing side every time.
First, in 1985 they lost to the Tigers 35-10, then they were shut out
45-0 in 1986, and finally they played again in 1994 and were defeated
A near miss in the
Pirates’ only meeting with the Crimson Tide. Five years after the last
of Alabama’s 12 national championships, the two teams lined up on Oct.
17, 1998, at Legion Field, which serves as the Tuscaloosa-based team’s
sometime home. The Tide, which was coached at the time by Mike Dubose,
squeaked by 23-22.
The Mobile Alabama
Bowl on Dec. 22, 1999. Taking the air out of the Pirates’ sails after a
thrilling 9-3 season were the Texas Christian Horned Frogs, led by a
running back named LaDainian Tomlinson, who was at that time little
known outside Conference USA. Tomlinson made sure the Pirate Nation
would always remember him with 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and
ECU did worse than standing in place, finishing the game with minus 16
A history of
underachieving against perennial middle-of-the-pack finishers UAB. The
state of Alabama really had the Pirates’ number in 1999 (see above),
which was the only year in which ECU fell twice in the Yellowhammer
State. The other time that year was a 36-17 loss to the Blazers at
Legion Field on Nov. 6, 1999. Two other losses to UAB came on Nov. 16,
2002, when the Pirates fell 36-29, and – most painfully for its
proximity to the present – the 17-12 loss on Sept. 9 of this year. Both
defeats were absorbed, of course, at Legion Field, a stadium that was
built in 1926 and is said to seat 83,091 fans. With the possible
exception of that 1998 Alabama game, the Pirates haven’t seen much in
that venue except a preponderance of empty seats. UAB is not known for
its overwhelming fan base.
Dark and gloomy though
this tour may have been, it has not been my intention to rain on anyone’s
purple parade. The general impression in Pirate Land seems to be that the
tide has turned – no pun intended – and that ECU football is on the road to
glory. If a 0-9 Alabama streak gets broken at the PapaJohns.com Bowl, the
Pirates have yet one more piece of evidence that this indeed is a new day.
Even when the site of
redemption must come in the state that gave us Hank Aaron, Jesse Owens,
Willie Mays, Bo Jackson and Charles Barkley.
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