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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, December 21, 2010

By Brian Bailey

So you think Santa is busy this week...

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

The East Carolina football team has to pack its sled and head to our nation’s capital on Christmas Eve. It's quite an undertaking to take the whole program on the road for the better part of a week.

Add in the Christmas holiday, and Santa may have to deploy some elves to help out with the trip.

The Pirates held their last practice before the bowl game in Greenville this past Saturday. The squad was then released for the “holidays.” The squad will return on December 23rd, and leave for the December 29th bowl on Christmas Eve.

First-year East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill says his team is right where he wants it to be heading into the break.

“Yes they are,” said McNeill. “Today’s last practice didn’t deal a lot with Maryland. We did a lot of best on best. It was very competitive.

“I’ve really been pleased with the entire body of work that this team has put in for the postseason. The kids were really excited, flying around out there. They look fresh. Some of the guys who have had the nicks and bruises, like Dominique (Davis) and Dwayne (Harris), are much better.”

McNeill looks forward to the bowl game, but says his team goes to D.C. with one goal in mind.

“We’re going to D.C. to win the bowl game,” McNeill stressed.

The Pirates return to camp on the 23rd for a weightlifting session before boarding that sleigh to Washington, DC.

Dodge now a part of NFL history

Former East Carolina punter Matt Dodge had a very difficult start to his Christmas week.

Dodge and the New York Giants completely folded late in falling to the Philadelphia Eagles in that battle for first in the NFC East.

First, the Giants' defense gave up a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Then with 12 seconds to play, the rookie punter was instructed to punt the football out of bounds, away from the most dangerous return man in the league in DeSean Jackson.

Instead, Dodge hit a 36-yard line drive right at Jackson, who first bobbled the football, took a step back, and then blistered the Giants with a 65-yard game-winning punt return.

Many said it was as shocking as the first “Miracle in the Meadowlands,” when Herm Edwards returned that Joe Pisarcik fumble in the original Meadowlands.

One headline called it “The nightmare before Christmas.” Another called it the “Modern Day Miracle in the Meadowlands.” Another described the original miracle as “The Fumble” and yesterday’s debacle as “The Crumble.”

The cameras caught Coach Tom Coughlin looking for answers from his rookie punter as the Eagles celebrated their improbable comeback.
Dodge faced the music afterwards, telling reporters that he just didn’t execute. Everyone was on the same page as far as kicking the football out of bounds.

“I think everyone on that sideline did,” said Dodge to reporters when asked if he was told to punt the football out of bounds. “And I knew it. He didn't have to tell me. It wasn't rocket science not to kick it to him with 12 seconds left, but sometimes you don't execute as well as you'd like.”

Jackson’s return was the first walk-off punt return in the annals of the NFL.

Dodge was a guest speaker this past summer in Greenville at the Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s punting and kicking camp. He spoke to the campers that day about football and faith.

That faith is certainly being tested. Dodge has had a roller-coaster season in his rookie year, and now he’s part of football history.

The measure of a man comes in how he handles adversity.

Several of his teammates came to his defense on Sunday night. Still, Dodge knows that if he’s told to punt the football out of bounds, then that’s where it has to go.

Here’s hoping Dodge can turn things around, be it with the Giants or maybe with a new start.


E-mail Brian Bailey.

Brian Bailey Archives

12/21/2010 05:23 AM


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