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No margin for error for ECU

By Denny O'Brien

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

Game No. 11 Vitals: ECU at Tulane

• No margin for error for ECU
• Depleted Tulane too much for Pirates
• Box Score & Statistics
• Post-Game Audio: J.T. & Players
• Season-to-date game-by-game links

NEW ORLEANS — Marvin Townes should have taken a sample of the new Superdome turf back to Greenville.

After ransacking the Tulane defense for 165 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries in East Carolina's 28-18 loss to the Green Wave Saturday, it would have been a nice souvenir for his milestone day. Only a win would have been better.

But despite the junior tailback's best efforts to tug his team to victory lane, a steady onslaught of unforced errors derailed his mission.


It was enough to douse a 1,000-yard season with a gallon of cod liver oil.

"1,000 yards is sweet, "Townes said. "But to come in here and lose, it takes it all away. We made a lot of mistakes. You turn the ball over and make the type of mistakes that we make, you never can win a game like that."

It almost sounds like a broken record. In fact, you could take the post-game comments from any of the Pirates' nine previous losses and insert them here.

Same story, different game.

"We've got to find some way to not make the same mistakes over and over," Pirates coach John Thompson said. "We had way too many penalties. We had way too many big plays against us when we had momentum.

"Good football teams eliminate mistakes, and we keep continuing to make the same mistakes. That's the biggest frustration about it."

If it wasn't turnovers, it was penalties. And just when it appeared as if the Pirates may claim the 'Dome as their home, they were dropkicked into another haunting episode of The Twilight Zone.

Only, the spirits bedeviling East Carolina weren't named J.P. Losman or Chris Bush. Though both played key roles in the Pirates' sinking ship Saturday, neither can take credit for ECU's tailspin into the abyss.

Credit the Pirates with the victory for the other team. They beat themselves.

"We had them worn down," Thompson said. "We were dominating the game in a lot of ways. Then we make critical mistakes. We give up a sack; we hold; we give up a big play; we bust a coverage.

"There were numerous plays in this game — way, way too many for the 11th game of the year to have that many mistakes."

Especially considering East Carolina can't afford any blunders if it expects to win. Though some can escape with a B-minus effort, the Pirates have shown the inability to recover from even the smallest boo-boo.

Holding penalties — of which there have been plenty — have killed drives and deflated any momentum the offense can create. Missed assignments in the secondary have turned busted plays into long-distance scores.

"It's very frustrating," fullback Vonta Leach said. "To lose to a team that we knew we should have beat, that everybody knew we should have beat, that we were favored to beat.. it's very frustrating."

Looking back, the fuel for frustration is multi-fold. While the talent cupboard isn't totally depleted, it also isn't of the caliber to which East Carolina has been largely accustomed since the mid-90s.

Add to that a large influx of talented, but inexperienced freshmen in the secondary, instability at quarterback, and a transition of regimes and philosophies that has been more difficult than anyone could have predicted.

That has been the Pirates' recipe for despair this season. Given the normal time table for changing the tides, it could be a while before East Carolina discovers a winning concoction.

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This page updated: 02/23/2007 01:52:17 AM.

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