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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

By Brian Bailey

Order Before They're Gone: 2010 Bonesville The Magazine

'Big boys' tripping up Pirates

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

East Carolina first-year football coach Ruffin McNeill called this part of the East Carolina schedule a “big boy slate.”

McNeill’s Pirates certainly have some growing up to do in a hurry.

In its last two games, East Carolina got off to great starts, only to get blown out in very similar fashions against Virginia Tech and North Carolina.

The games were eerily alike in the ways they unfolded. Both the Tar Heels and the Hokies regained control of the football game after intercepting Pirate quarterback Dominique Davis and returning those interceptions for touchdowns.

Once that momentum swing took place, Tech and the Heels went to work gashing the East Carolina defense on the ground.

In the North Carolina game, the Pirates held their own on defense in the first half, giving up just 41 yards on the ground on 12 carries. The second half, though, was an absolute nightmare, as the Heels rushed for 222 yards on 34 attempts. Both Johnny White and Shawn Draughn went over the 100-yard mark after both struggled early in the game.

The defense is a huge concern after four games. McNeill asks for patience.

“I wish I could magically sprinkle some dust on them to make them grow up and get stronger,” said Coach McNeill. “But that’s not going to happen. ... The only time you can develop the things we have to work on is through game experience.

" I wish I could do it differently, but I can’t and we can’t. We just have to be patient. I wish we could rush it, but we can’t.

"Those guys are working hard and even getting extra work. Our opponents have done a good job attacking where they should attack. But our guys will get better and improve. You have to believe in them and I do.”

On the other side of the football the East Carolina rushing game has to be a concern. The Pirates ran only 16 running plays, picking up just 64 yards on the ground. They were unable to sustain drives in the second half, keeping the defense on the field for way too long.

Penalties are killing the Pirate cause. I marveled earlier in the season that a new staff came in with so many new players, and everybody was on the same page. Through two games, there were very few false starts and holds. That changed in game three.

McNeill stressed that the penalties were probably his team’s biggest concern. The Pirates were flagged 12 times for 120 yards in the loss to North Carolina. McNeill pointed out that his team had 12 penalties for 91 yards in the first two games and 24 penalties for 220 yards in the last two.

“We have to do a better job as players and coaches," he said. "This is a dual assignment. Players have to do a better job of technique and fundamentals and we as coaches have to do a better job emphasizing in practice. We started doing that during the off week and I thought we had it handled. We had some big ones Saturday, though.”

From the outside looking in, it appears as if this “Air Raid” offense is virtually unstoppable when executed properly. If the execution isn’t there then the offense drags. This new system has shined at times, but has really bogged down at others, especially in the second halves of games.

There’s a lot to work on and little time to get that work done. The Pirates now head to Hattiesburg, and Southern Miss has always served as an ECU nemesis.

The Golden Eagles lead the all-time series 26-9. The Pirates are 6-11 all time in Hattiesburg, and a miserable 3-15 against the Golden Eagles in Greenville. The Pirates did beat USM 25-20 last year at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to win the East Division of Conference USA.

On a positive note, the Pirates are number one in the nation in fumbles lost. Through four games, East Carolina has yet to lose a fumble.

While the Pirates aren’t turning the football over, the defense also isn’t creating turnovers. That’s a big part of this defense, and for this “D” to begin to improve it will have to start making things happen with turnovers.

It won’t be easy against Southern Miss.

Coach Ruff asks for patience from the Pirate faithful.

Patience is a virtue. Or is it?

The web site says, “Patience is not so much a virtue as it is a reward that comes to those in balance. Do not try to "be" patient, or to practice patience, or try to emulate those who are patient. It isn't a habit, or something to be learned for its own sake. Patience is no virtue; patience is a reward.”

Ruffin McNeill and the Pirates hope that “reward” is just around the corner.


E-mail Brian Bailey.

Brian Bailey Archives

10/05/2010 04:31 AM


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