Bonesville: The Authoritative Independent Voice of East Carolina
Daily News & Features from East Carolina, Conference USA and Beyond

Mobile Alpha Roundup Daily Beat Recruiting The Seasons Multimedia Historical Data Pirate Time Machine SportByte™ Weather





Target your ad message at thousands of ECU Pirate fans. Call 252.349.3280 for flexible options & rates.





Pirate Notebook No. 476
Monday, October 10, 2011

Denny O'Brien

Big decision ahead for Ruff

Harris Poll

For the sixth year in a row, columnist Denny O'Brien is a member of the voting panel for the Harris Interactive College Football Poll commissioned by the Bowl Championship Series. O'Brien was nominated to the panel by Conference USA. His weekly ballot will be published in this space each Monday throughout the rest of the season.

The Harris Poll is a component of the BCS Standings. The initial 2011 BCS Standings will be released on Oct. 16. O'Brien's ballot below was filed in conjunction with this week's inaugural 2011 Harris Poll.

Denny O'Brien's Harris Poll Ballot

Ballot submitted 10.09.11

(Conference USA teams and ECU opponents highlighted in yellow.)

  1. Louisiana State
  2. Alabama
  3. Wisconsin
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Clemson
  6. Oklahoma State
  7. Boise State
  8. Stanford
  9. Oregon
10. Michigan
11. Arkansas
12. Georgia Tech
13. Nebraska
14. West Virginia
15. Houston
16. Kansas State
17. South Carolina
18. Virginia Tech
19. Illinois
20. Baylor
21. Texas
22. Arizona State
23. Texas A&M
24. Penn State
25. Florida

This Week's Harris, AP & Coaches Polls

Get 'em before they're gone! Bonesville The Magazine print or digital edition...

C-USA Standings

East Division







West Division







C-USA Scores & Schedule



Big decision ahead for Ruff
Big East saga continues; Military academies in play
Harris/AP/Coaches Polls
Big East ponders next move
Big East expansion pending?
Dealing with turnovers and disappointment
Different verse, same as the first

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

There is little more taxing on locker room dynamics than a quarterback controversy. If not handled properly, it can create division, with players choosing a personal favorite for the starting spot.

That’s the immediate challenge facing East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley in the aftermath of the Pirates’ humbling 56-3 loss to Houston Saturday night.

An inability to properly handle the sudden uncertainty at the position could divide the locker room. We saw that first-hand during John Thompson’s initial season with his poor juggling of Desmond Robinson, Paul Troth, and James Pinkney.

McNeill took a step in the right direction after Saturday’s game by taking a non-committal approach to either Dominique Davis or Rio Johnson. He wisely didn’t want to make an impulsive decision or say anything that might damage the confidence of either quarterback.

“I think we’ll watch film,” McNeill said. “That will be tough for me to make a decision right after the game tonight like this. We’ll watch film as a staff and make decisions on where we go with that.

"We didn’t hesitate to put (Rio) in there, and we won’t hesitate to play him if we need to.”

After Davis’s performance against Houston, there is no denying that East Carolina now has more questions at the position than answers. For the first time in his career, the once steady Davis was pulled from a game for poor performance.

Saturday, like other days this season, Davis was a far cry from the astute decision maker and ice cold competitor that led the Pirates to several comeback victories during the first half of 2010. He has seemingly been replaced by an indecisive, somewhat gun shy version of his former self — with a tendency towards panic at times when under pressure.

Davis finished Saturday’s game 13-of-23 for 169 yards and three interceptions. It marked the eighth-consecutive game in which Davis has thrown a pick, and many of those games included multiple miscues.

His final interception Saturday occurred on the opening drive of the second half and prompted Riley to make the switch. Johnson relieved Davis and completed 13 of his 21 attempts for 94 yards and an interception.

Johnson, like Davis, was under constant duress from a barrage of Houston blitzes, but didn’t seem to flinch from the pressure. On the contrary, he demonstrated surprising pocket awareness for a quarterback who had never played a down of college football.

“It looked like he was ready to go,” McNeill said. “Rio is a smart football player. We’ll look at the film and let Lincoln grade that. Having not played much, he may have run (the offense) a little bit slower. The more he plays, he’ll get better at that.

"But as far as making the decision as to who is there, we’ll watch the film and Lincoln and I will get together and we’ll see where we go with it.”

The remainder of the season rests on that looming decision. Making the right selection is only part of the challenge.

Effectively and authoritatively communicating it to Davis, Johnson, and the rest of the ECU locker room is the other.

In the ‘Hunt’

It’s tough to find many bright spots in the Pirates’ loss at Houston Saturday, but running back Torrance Hunt certainly stands out.

Hunt relieved starter Reggie Bullock, who was ineffective with six yards on six carries. Hunt responded with 65 yards on 12 carries in his first extensive action in the ECU backfield.

“I was proud of Torrance,” McNeill said. “He’s worked extremely hard. He’s been on special teams and has been a fixture for us.

“We moved him from wide receiver to running back in the spring and he did a great job. He’s really worked his way up the ladder. I felt so comfortable with him out there and so did Lincoln. He can make some guys miss.”

Hunt made a statement for a starting role with solid open field running. His combination of elusiveness and speed could give the ECU offense a needed boost.

Showing their youth

The most perplexing detail about Saturday’s game wasn’t the 56 points Houston posted on the scoreboard.

The ease with which the nation’s 93rd-ranked defense ransacked ECU quarterbacks was as puzzling as it was frustrating to watch. Houston registered nine sacks and nine quarterback hurries, often met with little resistance from the Pirates’ offensive front.

“Grant Harner, our most experienced lineman, got beat a couple of times,” McNeill said. “We’ll see where we are and grade that, if it was a technique thing.

“They put some speed guys on the field. We knew they might do that, and they did. They did get to the quarterback more than anyone has all year, which was surprising to me.”

Houston’s defensive coaches obviously detected something on film that led them to believe they could exploit the ECU offense. Given this and other recent trends, East Carolina’s offensive staff must figure out a way to stay a step ahead of the competition.

E-mail Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien Archives

10/10/2011 06:59 AM

©2001-2002-2003-2004-2005-2006-2007-2008-2009-2010-2011-2012-2013 All rights reserved.
Articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files and other content originated on this site are the proprietary property of
None of the articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files or other content originated on this site may be reproduced without written permission.
This site is not affiliated with East Carolina University. View's Privacy Policy. Advertising contact: 252-349-3280; Editorial contact:; 252-444-1905.