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From the Anchor Desk
Monday, October 24, 2006
By Brian Bailey

Pirates open 'third' season at Southern Miss

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Replay Coach Skip Holtz' remarks from his Monday media luncheon. (Recorded by Brian Bailey) ...

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Before this season, East Carolina coach Skip Holtz broke the Pirates' schedule down in three parts.

Part number one was a two-week road trip, with visits to Annapolis and Birmingham. The trip featured a young Pirate football team experiencing the growing pains that go with two close losses. You’ll recall that East Carolina almost pulled the UAB game out of the fire, but still lost after that late fumble.

The second part of the schedule was just completed. East Carolina had five home games over a span of six weeks. The five games included contests against four bowl champions from last season. The Pirates went 3-2, with losses to Conference USA favorite Tulsa and 5th-ranked West Virginia.

As we close out October, it’s on to part three of the ECU schedule. A home game with Marshall in two weeks is sandwiched around a pair of two-game road trips. Up first, journeys to Hattiesburg and Orlando to face Southern Miss and Central Florida, respectively.

Then after the Thundering Herd visits Greenville, the Pirates wrap up 2006 with trips to Rice and N.C. State.

“I really like the middle part of the schedule,” joked Holtz on Monday at his weekly news conference. “I say we move those five to the front of the schedule, and then have five more at the back. Now that would be a schedule!”

Holtz knows that his young squad grew up a bunch in that first part of the schedule. Now the challenge is to refocus this group on how to play on the road. It won’t be easy in Hattiesburg, a place the Pirates have rarely found success.

East Carolina has lost five in a row in the series, and has fallen in 9 of the last 10 meetings between the two teams. If there is a silver lining, it’s the fact that the Pirates do have 5 wins in 15 tries at Southern Miss, while ECU has lost 14 of 16 against the Golden Eagles in Greenville.

Holtz says the experience from the early road games should pay dividends this time out.

“I feel much better about it now than I did at the beginning of the year,” said Holtz. “At the beginning of the year we were taking a lot of players on the road that had never played a game, let alone traveled. Now all of a sudden a guy like Corey Dallas, who didn’t play in those first two games, but did travel, has had a great opportunity to get a lot of experience at home and we’ll count on him to play well this week on the road.”

Holtz takes a Hoosiers approach to the road games with his team. Do you remember when Gene Hackman had his players measure the height of the baskets in the big arena during the state tournament? Holtz takes the same approach.

“Once we get there we go through the stadium, we talk about the football field being the same length, size and shape," explained Holtz. "You try to get them comfortable that this is still just a game. Once the ball is put on the tee and kicked off, it is still just a game.”

Pinkney gets his groove back

What a difference a week makes for Pirate quarterback James Pinkney.

Pinkney was totally distraught after the loss to Tulsa last week. He was mad at himself, mad at his teammates and pretty much mad at the world.

Saturday, the big smile was back. Pinkney was 31-40 for 391 yards and two touchdowns in the 38-21 win over Southern Methodist.

“It felt great,” said Pinkney after the win. “I felt good back there and we made some good plays. It was great.”

When I told Pinkney that he almost eclipsed the 400-yard mark for the day, he smiled and joked that he had a couple of dropped balls in the game, implying that he could have gotten to 400.

He smiled again because he knew his receiving corps had many more catches then drops in the game.

It was certainly good to see that big smile return from James Pinkney.

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04/21/2008 07:04:01 PM


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