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Game 3: ECU 35, Memphis 20


The Slants of the Game
Sunday, September 17, 2006

By Denny O'Brien

Allison rebounds in timely fashion

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GREENVILLE — Yes, Aundrae Allison still exists on East Carolina's numerical roster. And after disappearing in the Pirates' loss last week at UAB, the all-star receiver made a welcome return to the box score in a 35-20 win over Memphis.

From the opening drive, it was evident that ECU was focused on involving its top weapon in the offensive game plan. It also appeared that Allison might need a 250-yard day to keep pace with a Tigers' aerial assault for which the Pirates had no answer in the first half.

That seemed the most probable second half scenario for serving up an East Carolina victory. The one unveiled was an endless helping of stingy defense — with more than enough Allison on the side.

"A lot of it is what (Memphis) did," East Carolina coach Skip Holtz said of Allison's performance. "They are obviously more of a man team, kind of coming after you with everything. He got singled up quite a bit.

"Yeah, he had a pretty good night. He is a great player. If you get the ball in his direction enough times, he's going to make enough plays."

Against Memphis, Allison more than met his quota, finishing with nine catches for 124 yards in a needed return as ECU's go-to guy. Several catches were made in clutch situations that extended drives — an element that was missing throughout much of the Pirates' loss to UAB last week.

It also occurred at a time when East Carolina was quickly approaching a moment of desperation and in need of someone to salvage the season.

"I just basically had the mindset this week that I was going to practice hard and bounce back from a zero-catch game," Allison said. "Overall, it was just a great feeling just to be back at home. The crowd really got into it.

"I was given the opportunity to make a lot of plays, and just took advantage."

No play proved bigger than his 33-yard touchdown reception with 3:34 left to play. It occurred at a moment when the lead was still in doubt and gave the defense just enough breathing room to nail the coffin shut.

The scoring strike also emphasized Allison's importance to ECU's overall success this year. When he's on, it's a good bet the rest of the offense is clicking, as witnessed by the Pirates' season-best 177 yards rushing.

To the core, Allison is the type of player around whom defensive coordinators devise their game plan. On every snap, you can rest assured that at least two defenders are aware of his positioning, be it split wide, in the slot, or sucking down a cup of Gatorade during a quick breather.

UAB stuck to its plan so well that several of the ten NFL scouts on hand to evaluate Allison hit the turnstiles by half. Allison appeared so frustrated after intermission that he may have mentally done the same.

Memphis wasn't so fortunate.

A great receiver is often defined by how productive his teammates are as a result of the attention he draws from the defense. That much certainly applies to Allison, and it became evident by midseason last year.

But all other things being equal, East Carolina's prospects for success increase significantly when No. 2 has the ball in his mitts, not blocking downfield or serving as a decoy. Each time he touched it Saturday, the Memphis sideline exhaled a giant gasp.

His final touch produced all-out deflation. Once again Allison proved his ability to suck the life out of an opponent.

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02/23/2007 02:03:45 AM

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