Wake Forest Stellar in Grobe’s Debut
By Denny O'Brien
you listened to ECU head coach Steve Logan in the days leading up to
yesterday’s game against Wake Forest, you could have easily mistaken the
Pirates’ opponent for Florida State.
And if you happened to watch the game, you may have left with the impression
that the Deacons are on a mission to be as good as their more highly regarded ACC
brethren from Tallahassee.
Wake Forest benefited from three turnovers and a stellar rushing performance
by Tarence Williams, who finished the game with 163 yards on 35 carries, to
become the first ACC team to win in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, beating the
The Deacons were in control the whole way, building a 15-0 lead that proved
to be too big a margin for the Pirates to overcome.
“We didn’t want an ACC team to come in here and get a win,” said ECU
quarterback David Garrard. “But they’re a good team. They’re not the same
team they were last year.”
Perhaps that is because of first-year head coach Jim Grobe, who couldn’t
have picked a better scenario for his debut.
players and coaches, it was a disappointing start to what many have
predicted to be a special season.
“There’s a bunch of heartbroken boys down in the locker room,” said Logan.
“There’s no question, they’re really heartbroken. And some coaches too, I
mean, that’s a tough deal.”
The Deacons’ spread attack kept the Pirates off balance with a nice mix of
option football and an efficient passing game. Grobe’s game plan kept the
ECU staff scratching its head for much of the night, searching for answers.
“We had heard that they were going to a spread offense, and in fact that is
what they did,” said Logan. “It was a wise move by Coach Grobe because it
accentuated Anthony Young, and I anticipated that.”
Young did plenty of damage on the ground, weaving his way to a 70-yard,
10-carry performance. But it was his 44-yard touchdown pass to Jax Landfried
with 7:22 remaining that provided the game-winning score for the Deacons.
“It’s a shame,” said a somber Logan. “Their kid made such a fantastic catch
on the take-off route. We were there in coverage with the guy and he made a
fantastic catch, and that was the ballgame.”
The Pirates, however, had their chance to pull even late when Garrard scored
from ten yards out on an option keeper with 3:48 remaining, cutting the lead
to 21-19. But on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, Garrard opted not
to pitch to running back Leonard Henry, who seemingly had an open lane to
the end zone, and was stopped just shy of the goal line.
“(Garrard) could’ve pitched it, maybe, and I think we could have got in
there and had a tie football game,” Logan said. “We had the right call. I
don’t know what David saw that made him keep the football, but things happen
awful fast out there.”
In remarks after the game, Garrard
noted that he thought he saw an opportunity to bull behind one of his
offensive linemen to the goal line.
“I was trying to follow my guard into the end zone, but they made a great
defensive stop,” added Garrard. “I was just trying to make a play – trying
to get my team into the end zone. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you
Trailing 15-0, the Pirates slowly clawed their way back into the game.
Leonard Henry’s eight-yard scamper just before halftime pulled the Pirates
to within 15-7, shifting the momentum to the Pirates heading into the locker
ECU climbed closer when Garrard hooked up with junior split end Torey Morris
on a 49-yard touchdown pass with 3:55 left in the third quarter to shrink
Wake’s lead to 15-13.
“I was waiting for it,” said Morris, referring to his scoring reception. “I
knew it was going to come.”
Morris, who finished the game with four catches for 93 yards and a
touchdown, was one of the few bright spots for the Pirates, who struggled
against Wake’s 3-4 defense. The Pirates finished with just 294 yards of
total offense, compared to 451 for the Demon Deacons.
Garrard was especially rusty early, though he got little help from his
receiving corps, which dropped a number of passes. Despite the slow start,
Garrard managed to finish with 231 yards passing on 18 of 35 attempts,
including the strike to Morris.
“I had some overthrown passes,” said Garrard. “I had some passes that didn’t
get to my receivers like I wanted them to. We’ve just got to come out and
practice and keep working at it.”
Sloppy play was the theme for the Pirate offense, which committed three
turnovers. And when the Pirates weren’t turning the ball over, they were
dropping passes and missing assignments. According to Logan, it was poor
field position and turnovers that sealed East Carolina’s fate.
“The turnovers got us,” said Logan. “We had a couple of balls – well thrown
balls – tipped off of our wide receiver two times, and it just constantly
left us with a long field.”
“My suspicion is that we saw two good football teams play tonight, and they
(Wake) played a little bit better from the standpoint of taking care of the
The Deacons struck first when Garrard was penalized for an illegal forward
pass from his own end zone, resulting in a safety.
Pirates had found themselves backed against the goal line after dodging an
early Wake threat when Pernell Griffin recovered a Williams’ fumble on the
“David was trying to bat the ball down so that they did not intercept it,
which was a wise play on his part. I’ve never seen anything like that. That
turned out being the difference.”
After kicker Kevin Miller’s kick sailed out of bounds, the Deacons marched
all the way down to the ECU one-yard line before settling for a Tyler Ashe
field goal, giving the Deacons an early 5-0 lead.
Garrard’s first interception set the stage for Wake Forest’s next score, a
one-yard plunge by tailback Tarence Williams, who gained 104 yards in the
first half. The score put an exclamation point on a 16-play 54-yard drive
that drained 7:24 from the clock.
“They had a fine package that our defense had a hard time identifying,
literally, who had the ball,” Logan noted. “With all the cross motion and
stuff – they just did a great job.”
“At the same time, we played good enough defense to win the football game.
We just didn’t quite get a break on the offensive side of the ball.”
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