Insights from Brett
Wednesday, October 21, 2015

By Brett Friedlander

Pirates' season arrives at crossroads



'Flipping the Déjà Vu?'

These five days may turn out to define the 2015 East Carolina football season. Part one was a success. ECU beat Tulsa 30-17 for the Pirate’s 10th straight homecoming victory. ... More from Brian Bailey...

Audio: Ruff Weekly Presser

ECU coach Ruffin McNeill met with reporters on Monday in his weekly press conference. (Audio courtesy of Pirate Radio 1250; archive photo): Select audio clip...

Audio: The Brian Bailey Show

The Brian Bailey Show airs on Pirate Radio 1250 on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. Brian's guests this week were ECU unit coordinators Rick Smith (left) and Dave Nichol (middle) and ECU media specialist Brian Meador (right): Replay show...


Infographic: Pick 6 set the tone



East Carolina forced two turnovers, kicked three field goals and pulled out a 30-17 win over Tulsa Saturday afternoon in front of a Homecoming crowd of 43,065 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Cornerback Josh Hawkins set the tone early for the Pirate defense, returning an interception 100 yards for a TD ... Details and data from Greg Vacek...



Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium | A: 43,065 | TV: ESPNN

ECU 30, Tulsa 17 | Photos... | Post-game Audio...

Ball 'Hawk' boosts Pirates

GREENVILLE — Everything seemed to feed off one game-changing play in East Carolina's 30-17 American Athletic Conference football win over Tulsa on Homecoming Saturday.

The Golden Hurricane was moving the ball as advertised after taking the opening kickoff and traversing from their 19 to the ECU 12 over the manicured turf of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Tulsa came in averaging 568 yards of total offense and 36.6 points per game. ... More from Al Myatt...

View W.A. Myatt's game day photo gallery...

Ruff post-game audio

ECU coach Ruffin McNeill spoke with reporters on Saturday after the Pirates' Homecoming win over Tulsa (recorded by Al Myatt): Select audio clip...
>>>  AAC SCOREBOARD  >>> ..... Friday: BYU 38, Cincinnati 24 ..... Houston 42, Tulane 7 ..... ..... Saturday: USF 28, UConn 20 ..... ECU 30, Tulsa 17 ..... Memphis 37, Ole Miss 24 ..... Temple 30, UCF 16 ..... .....


Kevin's Keys to the Game

East Carolina comes into today's American Athletic Conference contest with Tulsa at 3-3, while the Golden Hurricane has a 3-2 record. The Pirates are 1-1 in the AAC and Tulsa is 0-1, making this a pivotal game for both both teams in terms of their conference championship ambitions. ... More from Kevin Monroe...



Home sweet Homecoming

Al MyattHomecoming at East Carolina is a party that will attract around 50,000 guests. ECU coach Ruffin McNeill is in charge of the entertainment. McNeill and the late Ed Emory are former Pirate players who have gone on to become head coaches at their alma mater ... More from Al Myatt...



ESPN stumbling into uncertain future

ESPN's ascent to juggernaut status in sports media may have reached its pinnacle and begun its decent. Demographic, technological and competitive forces are eating away at the network's core revenues ... More from Danny Whitford...


By Brett Friedlander
©2015 Bonesville.net
All rights reserved.


No game last season sticks in the craw of East Carolina fans more than the Senior Night loss to Central Florida in which the Pirates pried defeat from the jaws of victory by allowing the Knights to score on a 51-yard Hail Mary pass as time expired.

But that wasn’t the most damaging loss of 2014.

Not by a long shot.

That distinction goes to the sloppy, self-inflicted 20-10 setback to Temple on a cold, wet November afternoon in Philadelphia – a game ECU fumbled away by coughing the ball up five times to negate a 428-135 advantage in total yardage.

In retrospect, it was the difference between a truly great season and a just plain good one.

It’s also a big reason why so many of the Pirates who were there that day are so amped up about getting another shot at the Owls Thursday night at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

“I can’t wait,” senior linebacker Zeek Bigger said only moments after last Saturday’s workmanlike 30-17 Homecoming win against Tulsa. “I just can’t wait.”

The nationally-televised rematch is a virtual mirror image of last year’s AAC East showdown, in which ECU was riding high, ranked 21st in the nation on the strength of a five-game winning streak. This time the roles are reversed with 22nd-rated Temple coming in as the hot team with five straight victories.

Revenge, however, is hardly the only – or most important – reason Thursday’s game is so important to the Pirates. As was the case was a year ago, the battle with the Owls represents a distinct seasonal crossroads for coach Ruffin McNeill’s team.

Though it’s still far too early for it to be a make-or-break proposition, the outcome will determine the course ECU takes for the remainder of the season.

Win and the Pirates will have the inside track on a division title no one would have dared predict after quarterback Kurt Benkert went down with his season-ending knee injury a week before the season opener. Lose and focus shifts to the more modest goal of winning at least six games and earning the best bowl trip possible.

Of course, you won’t hear McNeill or anyone on his staff has mentioning such things as they work their way through the short week of preparation for Temple.

“Not one second. Not one syllable. Not one word,” the ECU coach said. “The reason we need it is because it's the next game. That's the motivation. Our thought process isn't going to change. We know we have a great opponent in Temple. They're a great team. They're not winning by luck. It's execution.

“I talk about getting better. Let's play our best game our next game. Temple has a great team and proposes a great opportunity, but a challenge for us.”

The Pirates answered one challenge last week when their defense rose to the occasion by shutting out for the first three quarters a Tulsa team that came into the game ranked seventh nationally in total offense.

Not only did coordinator Rick Smith’s unit take care of the business of stopping the Golden Hurricane, it also picked up an out-of-sync offense by scoring one touchdown on a school-record tying 100-yard interception return by cornerback Josh Hawkins while setting up another score with a fumble recovery deep in Tulsa territory.

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This week, whether it’s James Summers or Blake Kemp getting the bulk of the work under center, it will be the offense’s turn to rise to the occasion against an Owls’ defense that allows only 14.7 points per game and held UCF to 134 total yards in a come-from-behind win last Saturday.

If nothing else, ECU should have plenty of motivation to fuel it after its 2014 disappointment in Philly.

Just not too much.

“We can’t look back on last year’s game because we aren’t last year’s team and they aren’t last year’s team,” Hawkins said. “We’re just going to worry about this team that we’re playing, ourselves and what we can accomplish now.”

The last thing the Pirates want to do is lose sight of what’s still there for the taking by spending too much time staring wistfully in the rearview mirror.

Not that a little revenge wouldn’t be sweet.

E-mail Brett Friedlander

10/21/2015 02:43 AM