From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
By Brian Bailey
WNCT-TV 9 Sports Director

The real gauntlet begins for Pirates


Audio: Brian Bailey Show
The Brian Bailey Show airs on Pirate Radio 1250 on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. Brian's guests were ECU defensive coordinator Rick Smith (left) and Mike Steele: Replay show...
Audio: Coach Ruff Presser
East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill spoke with the media at his weekly press conference on Monday (recorded by Brian Bailey; Bonesville file photo): Select clip...


Inside Game Day • Photos • Post-game Audio...

AAC Scoreboard > ..... Thursday > ..... Tulsa 38, Tulane 31 ..... Temple 37, Vanderbilt 7 ..... ..... Friday > ..... BYU 35, UConn 10 ..... UTSA 27, Houston 7 ..... ..... Saturday > ..... Penn State 26, UCF 24 ..... USF 36, Western Carolina 31 ..... Memphis 63, Austin Peay 0 ..... ECU 52, N.C. Central 7 ..... ..... Sunday > ..... Baylor 45, SMU 0 ..... .....

Pirates check out personnel, systems

Al Myatt

GREENVILLE — College football doesn't have scrimmages like high schools or exhibitions as NFL teams do and financial circumstances haven't always allowed East Carolina a tune-up outing as the 2014 season opener with North Carolina Central provided at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday night. ... More from Al Myatt...

Devaris Brunson (34) and DaShawn Benton (6) have a little fun after East Carolina's season-opening win over N.C. Central Saturday night in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Photo by W.A. Myatt. ... View W.A. Myatt's complete gallery...

Audio: Coach Ruff Post-game...

East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill met with the press after the Pirates won their season opener Saturday night over N.C. Central (recorded by W.A. Myatt; file photo): Select clip...


Kevin's Keys to the Game

The first game of the year is all about fundamentals. No matter the season, the coach or the players, there are certain things that have to happen in order for a team to win. Strategy and schematics are important, but none of that matters without blocking, tackling and protecting the ball. ... More from Kevin Monroe...



Reformulated defense may surprise

We’ve all heard that offense sells tickets, so it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that earlier this week, East Carolina – which already ranks first in attendance among programs in non-“Power Five” conferences – announced that it has surpassed the 20,000 mark in season ticket sales again this year. ... More from Brett Friedlander...



Eye patch symbolizes blind spots

Al Myatt

Season openers have provided some special moments in the career of East Carolina football coach Ruffin McNeill. In his first start at strong safety for the Pirates at N.C. State in 1977, he made a touchdown-saving tackle in the final seconds of a 28-23 win. ... More from Al Myatt...



15 Questions for Davon Grayson

Davon Grayson (6-2, 196) looks to rebound in the 2014 East Carolina football campaign from a knee injury that ended a promising true freshman season in which he had 18 catches for 176 yards and four touchdowns in six games. The sophomore outside wide receiver is from the talent-rich Tidewater Virginia area, by way of Kings Fork High School. ... More from W.A. Myatt...

Pictured: Devon Grayson is back in form after rehabbing from an injury last season that cut short a spectacular start in his freshman campaign. The Suffolk, VA, product is listed as East Carolina's starter at the "Z" position (outside receiver) for Saturday's opener with N.C. Central . (ECU Media Relations photo)



By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

View ECU's 2014 football schedule

With all due respect to North Carolina Central, the East Carolina football season commences this weekend in Columbia, South Carolina.

ECU was an easy winner in the opener. The Pirates scored 52 unanswered points after giving up a touchdown on a fumble by the offense. The defense threw a shutout. It was the first game the unit didn’t give up a touchdown since the 2008 win over No. 8 West Virginia.

After a slow start, the bigger, stronger and faster Pirates wore down the squad from Durham. Only the Eagles' band had any energy after the first quarter.

“I think the keys to our win were our dedication to the team and the focus on the vision,” said ECU coach Ruffin McNeill at his weekly press conference on Monday. “From that game, I saw that, and I was very pleased.”

The Pirates’ first touchdown came off of a trick play. All-American receiver candidate Justin Hardy took the ball on a reverse and fired deep for teammate Isaiah Jones. Jones was so open he was lonely.

“I just wanted to concentrate on catching the ball,” Hardy said. “It was so high and I knew it should be an easy catch.”

Hardy played quarterback his senior year at West Craven High School out of necessity. He joked afterwards that he wasn’t interested in getting any snaps on next week at quarterback.

“I knew he was wide open,” said Hardy. “I just let it fly and I got some air under it.”

“I was excited for him,” said quarterback Shane Carden about Hardy’s pass.

After the trick play, Carden and company went to work with a more standard mode of operation. The game plan as always centered around distributing the football to the plethora of wide receivers on this team's depth chart.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who can really play,” said Carden after his 26-37 performance for 283 yards and three touchdowns.

Hardy caught two of those touchdown passes and continues as Carden’s go-to receiver in this offense. He caught 8 passes for 87 yards and the two scores.

Jones was impressive as well. He had ten catches for 150 yards and the touchdown from Hardy.

“It was fun to get back out there,” said Jones after the game.

I’m one of the only reporters in the area that has covered both Isaiah and his dad, former Pirate All-American Robert Jones, who was a part of the ‘Dream Season’ of 1991. The elder Jones won three Super Bowl rings with the Dallas Cowboys.

I joked with Isaiah that he was extremely nice, like his Mom and not at all like his Dad.

“Dad was a linebacker,” Isaiah smiled as he explained. “They’re all a little crazy.”

The craziness that is the ECU schedule hits full stride now, starting with the visit to South Carolina. The Pirates follow that with a trek to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech, and then a home game against rival North Carolina.

It all starts with a Saturday night special in the Palmetto State against the 'Ole Ball Coach.'

“Coach Spurrier is one of the best coaches in this game,” said McNeill. “I’ve followed him since his Duke days, to his national championship run at Florida, to the league (NFL) and now. I know he’ll have his team ready to go.

"Of course we’ll watch the film, but it goes back to controlling what we can, and that’s our preparation and how we plan.”

Spurrier is 2-0 all time in games he has coached against East Carolina. The Gamecocks have also won the last two in the series, and lead the overall set 12-5. The two teams have split the last six meetings.

I certainly don’t think it helped the Pirate cause that the Gamecocks laid a big egg on Thursday night in their opener against a Johnny Football-less Texas A&M squad.

South Carolina hasn’t started 0-2 at home since 1999. That’s the year the Gamecocks were 0-11. South Carolina hosts Georgia after the Pirates visit.

This East Carolina team knows it will have its hands full on Saturday night.

On the flipside, I think the Gamecocks realize the same thing.


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09/02/2014 03:23 AM