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


Conference USA Breakdowns and Matchups

Denny O'Brien's Game Day Slants
Saturday, November 16, 2002


Today's pregame pep talk might be a doozie

Deflated Cougars face more misery at psyched Cincinnati



Catch Bonesville's exclusive weekly Internet radio program, BONESVILLE HUDDLE, featuring insightful give-and-take between columnists Al Myatt, Brian Bailey and Denny O'Brien. (Posted in Windows Media Format each Wednesday for streaming on demand.) Al



The perfect T-shirt for the perfectly patriotic football fan.
Check it out at


UAB has had a penchant for tarnishing the luster of some of East Carolina's more glorious recent seasons.

In fact, the Blazers have become an obstacle the Pirates would just as soon avoid, which fortuitously occurred in 2001 as a result of Conference USA's rotation of opponents for each team.

That is not the case this time around. ECU, which has doggedly battled its way into prime contention for the league title despite a less than exemplary non-conference record, will most certainly be reminded by coaches before today's game at UAB of how the Blazers have a history of knocking the Pirates for unexpected loops at the most inopportune times.

On ECU's last trip to Birmingham, in 1999, UAB knocked a 7-1 Pirate team out of the national rankings with a 36-17 butt-whipping that left Pirate coaches, players and fans scratching their heads in puzzlement.

The next season, the Blazers waltzed up to Greenville and delivered a 16-13 shocker, derailing ECU's drive to what might have been a conference championship and a Liberty Bowl berth.

Today's pregame locker room speech by ECU head coach Steve Logan might be one worth archiving, especially if it is followed by a Pirate win — which would set up a mega-battle at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium next Saturday against league leader and 24th-ranked Texas Christian.

Logan's wish

Logan got his wish against Houston.

Since taking over as head coach in '92, Logan's battle cry has been for the Pirates to have the mental and physical toughness to win on the last play of the game.

That's exactly what happened when Art Brown skipped across the goal line in the third OT last Saturday.

It was the type of victory on which the 11th-year ECU coach hopes the young Pirates can build. And when all is said and done, it could prove to be the watershed moment in a roller coaster season.

"There are ways that you can get confidence and move on with something like that as far as chemistry," Logan said. "From the 12-minute mark on in that game they had three drives: four and out, seven and out, and a three and out with a fumble.

"The point being, our defense played their assignments properly and did what we asked them to do. It has never been an effort issue with the defense, or the offense. It has been an execution issue."

Logan hopes the momentum his defense gained in the fourth quarter last week will carry over into Saturday's contest against UAB at Legion Field (3:00 EST).

If not, the Pirates will have to again rely on their offense to outscore the opposition, which he says is a growing trend across the college football landscape.

"We keep telling our offensive kids that we have to put the ball in the end zone every time out," Logan said. "If they score, we have to go answer and that is just the nature of the game today.

"I believe that the offenses are ahead of the defenses generally speaking. There are defenses out there that are good and capable of stopping you. Maybe the pendulum will swing back, but right now you've got to score points to have a chance to win."

Even if it means doing it on the last play of the game.


Denny O'Brien's
C-USA Power Poll

1. TCU (8-1, 5-1) - Frogs closing in on C-USA title, but still has plenty of work to do.

2. Louisville (6-4, 4-2) - Thursday night win still gives Cardinals an outside shot at share of league title.

3. Southern Miss (6-4, 4-2) - Eagles had their shots against Cards, but couldn't get it done in crunch time.

4. Tulane (6-4, 3-3) - Green Wave out of title hunt, but very much a part of the C-USA bowl picture.

5. Cincinnati (4-5, 3-2) - Rebounding Bearcats need help to share conference crown.

6. East Carolina (3-5, 3-1) - Pirates have more lives than Morris the cat.

7. UAB (4-5, 3-2) - Loss to Southern Miss doesn't diminish postseason hopes.

8. Houston (4-5, 2-4) - Cougars still in bowl hunt, but must take care of business and get a little help.

9. Memphis (2-8, 1-5) - The overwhelming question is how patient will the administration be with Tommy West.

10. Army (0-9, 0-6) - About the only thing left to play for is season finale against Navy.

When ECU has the ball

The Pirates are showing steady signs of improvement on offense. They couldn't have picked a better time.

Paul Troth looks more comfortable under center and his receivers are emerging as dependable weapons. The offensive line is keeping the young QB's jersey clean, while opening holes for explosive running back Art Brown.

That trend should continue in Birmingham, considering that the Blazers have exhibited vulnerabilities to both the run and pass.

The key, as it always is, will be turnovers, which over the past couple of games is an area where the Pirates have shown vast improvement.

If they continue to keep the blunders to a minimum, there's no reason the Bucs shouldn't break 30 points against a suspect D.

Advantage: ECU

When UAB has the ball

An early-season quarterback change has been the difference for the Blazers. Redshirt freshman Darrel Hackney has solidified the situation under center for UAB, which struggled out of the gates offensively.

"They have a quarterback that will be one of the best ones to play in this conference," Logan said. "He reminds me a lot of David Garrard.

"He's a 6-2, 230-pound youngster that throws a really, really good football, hard to get on the ground, runs nicely. They are much more balanced over the quarterback position now than when we have played them in the past."

Hackney's favorite target, Willie Quinnie, also figures to pose problems for the Pirates. At 6'2", 180-pounds, the senior receiver has a significant size advantage over the Pirates' small corners.

UAB's running-back-by-committee approach should also be effective, especially if the Blazers present a hefty dose of misdirection.

By far, this is the best Blazers offense the Pirates have faced. And without question, this is the most suspect East Carolina defense UAB has encountered.

Advantage: UAB

Special teams

On paper, it looks to be a stalemate.

Kickers Nick Hayes (UAB) and Kevin Miller (ECU) are as accurate as they come in the kicker-rich C-USA. Combined, the two Groza Award semifinalists have hit 21-24 field goals on the season.

Both punters are equally adept at flipping the field, with ECU's Jarad Preston averaging 43.6 yards per boot and UAB's Ross Stewart notching 42.5 yards per clip.

It's just as tough to find an advantage in the return game, with both posing serviceable specialists, and it may just come down to which team can break a big one.

Advantage: Even


History certainly doesn't favor East Carolina, which is searching for its first win in Alabama. So, why pick the Pirates this season, of all seasons? Perhaps the better question is: Why not?

For all the Pirates' problems — of which there are many — there is something special about this team. Effort and desire certainly aren't issues and Logan has said all along he likes this group's heartbeat. That beat found more rhythm last week, pounding loudest when the Pirates' backs were against the wall. These guys seem to embrace the "chip" and don't know the meaning of the word panic. They'll keep their title dreams alive, 34-30.

Around Conference USA



 Texas Christian  5   1
 East Carolina  3   1
 Louisville  4   2
 Southern Miss  4


 UAB  3   2
 Cincinnati  3   2
 Tulane  3   3
 Houston  2   4
 Memphis  1   5
 Army  0   6

Houston at Cincinnati

The Cougars and Bearcats enter Saturday's showdown on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum.

Houston squandered a 17-point fourth-quarter lead last week against East Carolina, eventually bowing in three overtimes. Cincinnati, behind its upstart defense and cool-as-ice quarterback, Gino Guidugli, clawed past arch-rival Louisville last Thursday to reclaim the coveted Keg of Nails.

Both the Coogs and 'Cats should remain on their emotional planes this week in another C-USA classic shootout. Houston should find it tough to keep pace with Guidugli and his corps of dynamic receivers. 'Cats 37, Coogs 28.

Army at Tulane

Tulane has been one of few opponents Army has looked forward to playing in the Todd Berry era. But not this season.

The Green Wave is much improved and stands to make its first postseason appearance since winning the conference in '98. Army on the other hand would just like to win a game.

The way it's shaping up and the Knights will have to wait for their season finale, the annual Army-Navy classic, to salve the ache of losing. The Cadets have no chance in the Dome. Wave 35, Black Knights 17.

Send an e-mail message to Denny O'Brien.

Click here to dig into Denny O'Brien's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 01:46:37 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.