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BONESVILLE HUDDLE, featuring insightful
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UAB has had a penchant for
tarnishing the luster of some of East Carolina's more glorious recent
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
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
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 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
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
"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.
ECU at UAB
C-USA Power Poll
(8-1, 5-1) - Frogs closing in on C-USA title, but still has plenty
of work to do.
Louisville (6-4, 4-2) - Thursday night win still gives Cardinals
an outside shot at share of league title.
Southern Miss (6-4, 4-2) - Eagles had their shots against Cards,
but couldn't get it done in crunch time.
Tulane (6-4, 3-3) - Green Wave out of title hunt, but very much a
part of the C-USA bowl picture.
Cincinnati (4-5, 3-2) - Rebounding Bearcats need help to share
East Carolina (3-5, 3-1) - Pirates have more lives than Morris the
(4-5, 3-2) - Loss to Southern Miss doesn't diminish postseason
Houston (4-5, 2-4) - Cougars still in bowl hunt, but must take
care of business and get a little help.
Memphis (2-8, 1-5) - The overwhelming question is how patient will
the administration be with Tommy West.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.