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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

By Brian Bailey


Pirates focus on fundamentals

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

You learn much more about a football team in adversity than you do in success. First-year East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill got heavy doses of both in Blacksburg on Saturday in that 49-27 Pirate loss to Virginia Tech.

“We did,” said Coach McNeill after his team’s Sunday night workout back in Greenville. “It was a tale of really two halves. We had a really sharp first half. Second half some things happened, a play here or a play there that could have turned the tide. My hat goes off to Virginia Tech. That’s a team that had their backs against the wall.”

The Hokies trailed 27-21 in the third quarter. That’s when Blacksburg turned into “Blitzburg” against East Carolina. In what seemed like a dizzying instant, Virginia Tech hit the Pirates with enough big plays to turn a close game into a blowout. When the dust settled, Virginia Tech had perhaps saved its season.

The Pirates returned home on Saturday. By Sunday the team had the task of putting the loss behind them.

“We have a 24-hour rule, so that game is in the box and we go on to the next one,” said Coach McNeill.

That first practice after the loss was a short but crisp workout under the lights on Sunday night.

“The kids were very resilient tonight,” said McNeill after the workout. “We had a really sharp practice tonight. The defense worked mostly all fundamentals. The offense touched on some things from the Virginia Tech game and then added some things for our upcoming game next week. I thought it was very sharp. Our special teams were very attentive. The guys did a good job of bouncing back.”

With three games in the books, the Pirates now get an off week to get ready for another road game against a BCS conference member. After the off Saturday, East Carolina will travel to Chapel Hill to take on the Tar Heels.

The Pirates took Monday off. The squad will work on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before taking off Friday and Saturday. Those midweek practices will have one definite theme.

“My big message to the staff this week is fundamentals," said Coach McNeill. "I want less scheme work and much more work on the fundamentals. I want big time work on the fundamentals, both on an individual and team basis.”

One game certainly doesn’t make a season. How this squad handles this one game and the way it played out will have an impact the rest of the way.

“There are a lot of games left," said McNeill. "We plan on playing for a long time. The kids believe that and so do I. It was a setback and we learned from it. Each game is a growing experience. I’m proud of our coaches. I’m proud of our kids. We’ll bounce back.”

It was a winning September for the Pirates.

October brings on a whole new set of challenges. There are a couple of rivalry games and a trio of key games in Conference USA.

The season is really just getting started.


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09/21/2010 03:18 AM


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