From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
By Brian Bailey
WNCT-TV 9 Sports Director

Ruff & Co. have more bricks to lay


Audio: 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 basketball coach Jeff Lebo (left) and Rose football coach David Wojtecki (right): Replay show...

View Pirate Radio 1250 Programming Lineup



ECU getting 'total package' in Dukes

Mooresville coach Hal Capps didn't hesitate when asked recently if his star defensive lineman Jamil Dukes compared to any players he'd previously coached or competed against. ... More from Sammy Batten...

Thumbnails: ECU's recruiting class of 2016...


Monday Infographic: 'That's Reality'



In the wake of its last-second, season-ending loss to Cincinnati, injuries and close losses sum up East Carolina's 2015 football campaign. Five of the Pirates' seven losses were by 10 points or less. ... Details and data from Greg Vacek...

>>>  AAC SCOREBOARD  >>> ..... ..... Thursday: USF 44, UCF 3 (ESPN) ..... ..... Friday: Houston 52, Navy 31 (ABC) ..... Tulsa 45, Tulane 34 (ESPNU) ..... ..... Saturday: Memphis 63, SMU 0 (ESPNN) ..... Cincinnati 19, ECU 16 ..... Temple 27, UConn 3 (ESPNU) ..... .....


Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium | Att: 40,743 | TV: CBSSN

UC 19, ECU 16 | Photos... | Audio: Ruff Postgame...

Another Senior Day heartbreaker

GREENVILLE — Cincinnati provided some unwanted deja vu as East Carolina was trying to nail down a bowl bid and send its seniors out in style Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. For the second straight year, a play as time expired was the difference maker in a loss on Senior Day for the Pirates. Andrew Gantz was once again a villain for ECU. ... More from Al Myatt...

View Al Myatt's game day photo gallery...

Audio: Ruff post-game

ECU coach Ruffin McNeill spoke with reporters after the Pirates' loss to Cincinnati (recorded by Al Myatt; file photo): Select audio clip...
>>>  AAC SCOREBOARD  >>> ..... ..... Thursday: USF 44, UCF 3 (ESPN) ..... ..... Friday: Houston 52, Navy 31 (ABC) ..... Tulsa 45, Tulane 34 (ESPNU) ..... ..... Saturday: Memphis 63, SMU 0 (ESPNN) ..... Cincinnati 19, ECU 16 ..... Temple 27, UConn 3 (ESPNU) ..... .....


Pirates leave Vegas as winners

LAS VEGAS — East Carolina snapped a three-game losing streak as B.J. Tyson scored 22 points in a 93-73 win over Stetson in the Pirates' final game of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational on Friday. ... More...

Next: ECU vs. Florida Atlantic
Tuesday, 7 pm | TV: ASN/ESPN3



Kevin's Keys to the Game

Today's game between East Carolina and visiting Cincinnati should be an exciting one between two high-powered offenses. The Pirate offense has been underwhelming most of the year because of key injuries. The Bearcat offense has been good, but not always good enough to overcome deficiencies on defense. ... More from Kevin Monroe...



Little Rock inches past ECU

LAS VEGAS — Arkansas-Little Rock found enough offense in the second half to top East Carolina 54-46 in a Las Vegas Invitational defensive battle at Orleans Arena on Thursday. The Pirates led 23-15 at the half. ... More...



Pirates planning feast, nap

Al MyattEast Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill likes a certain routine during game week but he's looking forward to an exception today as the Pirates (5-6, 3-4 AAC) get ready to host Cincinnati (6-5, 3-4) on Saturday at noon. ... More from Al Myatt...


By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.


East Carolina’s football season came to a disappointing end on Saturday as the Pirates fell to Cincinnati 19-16.

It wasn’t the ending this team, especially the seniors, was looking for.

However, the game itself was pretty much the season in a nutshell. The Pirates had plenty of chances, but when the game was on the line this East Carolina football team just couldn’t make the key play.

One of the big problems in the American Athletic Conference matchup was the Bearcats' success on third down. The ‘Cats were 15-22 on third down conversions. That’s 15 different times the Pirate defense had a chance to get the offense back on the field, but the play just wasn’t made.

Cincinnati was having too much success on first down as well. Those third down conversions were pretty much all in the most makeable category.

“I thought it was a well played game,” said Pirate coach Ruffin McNeill afterwards. [Cincinnati] has a very talented team. We knew that all week. But our kids fought hard. I thought we left some opportunities out there first half and second half. I thought they scored the first touchdown, and then we held them to field goals after that in the second half. The kids fought hard. The kids put a lot into this season and to the game.”

This team was behind the eight ball from two weeks into fall camp, when starting quarterback Kurt Benkert went down with that knee injury. Cody Keith stayed hurt before he quit the team. That left Blake Kemp and juco receiver James Summers for first year offensive coordinator Dave Nichol to work with.

Nichol got great play, at times, from both quarterbacks. What he never really found with either was the consistency to put points on the scoreboard.

That lack of consistency was probably the most frustrating part of this football season.

East Carolina showed signs that, despite losing Benkert, it could play with anyone in the country.

The Pirates had Florida on the ropes in Gainesville. The Gators will meet Alabama for the SEC championship this week.

Brigham Young went 9-3 on the year. The Pirates certainly had their chances in that 45-38 loss.

The AAC had four teams in the Top 25 this season. Navy had its way with ECU, but the Pirates led Temple until late in the game. East Carolina did not play Memphis or Houston. South Florida, perhaps the league’s hottest team to end the year, barely slipped by ECU late in the season.

The Pirates may be facing growing pains in moving to the AAC. It was very noticeable against Cincinnati in the finale, with the Bearcats dominating the line of scrimmage.

“They’ve got size upfront and mass upfront,” said McNeill. “That’s the difference in this league. I’ve been trying to tell everyone that. That’s an NFL line they have. Three of the five are going to 'the league.' But again, we’ve got to hold up. Eventually we’ll get there; our kids will get to that size and hold up there.”

I know this about Ruffin McNeill and his staff. This is a group that will work as hard as any coach and staff to turn this thing back around.

McNeill already has some nice verbal commitments for 2016. Sure, there will be some changes as there always are. Coach Ruff likes to say he’s building brick by brick. That foundation is what will hold this program together in lean years.

McNeill knows his program has faced more adversity in this one season then he has in his previous five years at ECU.

“Right before the season started, [Kurt Benkert] went down, Cody Keith got hurt, injuries here and there, but we weren’t making any excuses,” said McNeill. "That’s reality. This conference is a conference – and our nonconference schedule is a schedule that has a small margin of error, but there’s a point where we’ve still got to build.”

That building continues with recruiting and winter conditioning to come.

This Pirate program will hit the ground running in the spring.

No one really picked Temple to win the East Division in the American this year. No one will probably pick East Carolina to win it in 2016.

But you had better believe that winning the American will be the goal next season.

The Pirates will have a chip on their shoulder after missing the postseason for the first time since 2011.

Here’s to a quick off-season and another year of Pirate football come August.


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12/01/2015 03:08 AM