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

Stakes rising as season slips away

By Denny O'Brien

The post-game slants
and audio bytes, as
penned and digitally
recorded by staff
writer Denny O'Brien.

Game No. 6 Vitals: ECU vs. UNC-CH

Stakes rising as season slips away
1st trip to ECU nets 1st win for Heels
Box Score & Statistics
Audio: J.T. and ECU players

GREENVILLE — At least basketball season starts soon. That's the normal discourse for a disgruntled Tar Heels fan midway through another disappointing football season.

Coming from a purple-and-gold constituency that lives and dies by the bounce of the pigskin, that phrase is a warning sign that East Carolina has hit rock bottom on the gridiron.

That's exactly where the Pirates' sinking ship has rested after a 28-17 loss to previously winless North Carolina Saturday.

"It's tough to find a way to win when you're 0-5," first year coach John Thompson said. "It's going to be tough to find a way to win at 0-6, but we're going to do it. We're going to find a way."

Aside from winless Army next Saturday, it is difficult to pinpoint an opponent against which East Carolina should expect to be competitive. Heck, even the Black Knights present a tall task given the depleted emotional tank on which the Pirates will be running.

That has created the distinct — albeit unthinkable — possibility of an 0-12 campaign, a scenario that almost assuredly would raise dire questions about the decisions ECU made last December.

"I didn't see any quit in this team," Thompson said. "I didn't see any panic. We're improving."

The numbers say marginally, at best.

Against a defense ranked last in all of Division I-A, East Carolina registered an embarrassing 289-yard offensive effort. For three quarters, the Pirates were so predictable that the term "vanilla" would have added flavor to the playbook.

Though the defense played inspired football for at least one half, the Tar Heels, with the nation's 104th best rushing attack, flirted heavily with a 200-yard performance.

Same story, different day.

"You look at both halves," Thompson said. "We had it going, our running game was going so well. We were playing well against the run. The first half, we really had a control of it. (We) come back out the second half and they turn the tale on us."

It really was that simple.

A tweak here. An adjustment there. The rest is history.

The remainder of the season also is dangerously close to earning that label. Though mathematically not out of postseason contention, a bowl invitation no longer is a realistic goal for a Pirates team battered by one confidence-shattering outcome after another.

At this point, finding a cure for the common cold seems within closer reach.

Still, Thompson, as is his duty, is peering for and expecting to see a flicker of sunshine at the end of the tunnel.

"I believe this team knows how to win," Thompson said. "I believe this team knows how to get there."

The question may be whether or not ECU fans will be patient enough for that arrival. Even though coaches generally are given the benefit of the doubt in year one, Thompson will get no sympathy for losing at home against a struggling Carolina team. It was the one game in which he couldn't afford a defeat.

East Carolina has waited its entire athletics lifetime to bring the Tar Heels Down East, but couldn't cover the spread in the inaugural Respect Bowl.

Now the challenge is more difficult than Thompson ever could have imagined. Not only is there pressure to get into a victory pattern of some sort, but the task of doing so with an emotionally deflated team and a reeling fan base will be a perilous one indeed.

While a victory next week at West Point against another hapless team won't restore the program's swagger, it might serve as the glimmer of light Thompson has been searching for.

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

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

This page updated: 02/23/2007 01:52:12 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.