A bonding win for East Carolina
||The post-game slants
and audio bytes, as
penned and digitally
recorded by staff
Game No. 7 Vitals: ECU at Army
WEST POINT OK, so it wasn't Miami. And it certainly wasn't for a share
of the Conference USA title.
But after 10 months-plus of division and turmoil within the ranks, the
case can be made that East Carolina's 38-32 victory over winless Army was a
shot in the arm for the Pirate Nation in more ways than one.
On paper, it mirrored many of ECU's nerve-wracking outings over the past three seasons.
Led by a marquee individual performance by running back Marvin Townes, the
Pirates constructed a big lead only to be forced to withstand a furious rally
by an inspired underdog opponent.
But on an afternoon that might in past seasons have been summarized as one of
great frustration for Pirates coaches, players and fans, this win resulted
a chorus of smiles, hugs, and high-fives.
That's what a win feels like when you're 0-6 and your object of affection
East Carolina University has endured one negative headline after
another, both on the field and off.
Previously winless and with a collective pride that had been battered and
bruised, Saturday served as a day of healing for the East Carolina
community, a brief moment in which it could soothe the gaping wounds that
for months have divided it.
"It feels good just to win," Pirates coach John Thompson said. "I'm so
proud of our guys."
And he had a right to be.
"You look at 0-6 and you say, 'OK, let's throw in the towel,' " reflected
Thompson. "We didn't practice that way. We haven't practiced that way
anytime all year long. I know that Army's had some troubles, but you know,
so have we."
Almost too many to count. Since before Steve Logan was fired, the East
Carolina campus has served as a civil war battlefield of sorts, on which
Pirates turned against Pirates.
Internally, ECU suffered the inevitable collateral damage from a
years-long skirmish between a former head football coach and a former
athletics director, each wishing the other were elsewhere. Following the
example of their leaders, ECU fans chose sides and joined the power
In the end, in the figurative sense, both of those combatants were
mortally wounded, leaving their soldiers on the battlefield to piece
together the ruins.
That piecing together took a tangible step forward on Saturday.
Here along the Hudson River, amid the shadows of America's greatest
warriors past, present, and future there was a peaceful Pirate reunion
draped in a picturesque backdrop of purple and gold foliage.
For Thompson, there was never any doubt about the day's happy outcome,
despite the game's shaky start.
"We came in here to win the football game," Thompson said. "We felt that
way all along. We were going to win, even though they jumped up and ran the
kickoff back and got the first big play on us."
That's a bold statement about a team for which wins have been as rare
this season as a fresh oyster in July. Perhaps it was the perfect battle cry
from a team so desperate for a win that selling its soul was becoming more
attractive by the day.
After eight-consecutive losses stretching back to last season and a
steady stream of lopsided scores, it was beginning to look as if East
Carolina's string of 15-straight defeats from '85-'86 could be in serious
As it turns out, that won't be the case and satisfying the hunger for
more victories is high on the Pirates' agenda.
"We know how to win," Thompson said. "We know what that feeling is like.
That was a fun locker room over there. I think our guys had forgotten how to
celebrate a little bit. We've got to practice that a little more, too."
There still are plenty of opportunities for that, though it is unlikely
the Pirates will be favored in any of their remaining games. While the back
end of the schedule isn't nearly as imposing as the front, the fact still
remains that this team has a long way to go.
Aside from a few positions, East Carolina has more question marks than it
does answers. The Pirates are shaky at quarterback, thin at receiver and on
the defensive front, and downright scary in the secondary.
The offense has been inconsistent at best, while the defense has more
holes at times than a loaf of Sunbeam bread.
It almost certainly will take more efforts like Townes' 39-carry,
184-yard performance against the Black Knights. Four-catch, 76-yard days
from receiver Richard Hourigan need to become a norm.
That could go a long way towards steering the Pirates' ship back on
course, while sewing a thread of unity back into the shredding fabric of
ECU's proud football culture.
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This page updated:
02/23/2007 01:52:13 AM.