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Pirate Notebook No. 356
Tuesday, September 2, 2008

By Denny O'Brien

Fans must answer the call

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

Rain or shine. That’s the mentality East Carolina’s 12th man should adopt for the Pirates’ showdown with West Virginia Saturday.

As the anticipation builds for a potentially historical weekend in Greenville, the Pirates could host two fierce opponents: Pat White and his talented Mountaineers and the remnants of Hannah.

Neither is a slouch. And I suspect the Pirates won’t weather the storm or the WVU juggernaut without the assistance of their passionate supporters, an expanded version of the ones who vocally erupted when T.J. Lee beamered East Carolina past Virginia Tech in Charlotte.

Not that the Pirates don’t have the talent to at least compete with the Mountaineers. Many who witnessed their victory over the Hokies will insist that this bunch can physically compete with anyone not named Georgia, Ohio State, or Southern Cal.

While I consider that somewhat of a stretch, it certainly is no reach to suggest that East Carolina coach Skip Holtz has advanced the program to level where it can match up with anyone on its schedule. That includes West Virginia.

Even so, the Mountaineers will enter Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium as a solid favorite according to most pigskin pundits. Their roster boasts a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and is otherwise littered with blue chippers that former coach Rich Rodriguez lured to Morgantown while building WVU into a powerhouse.

Though Rodriguez and a few of the playmakers have left the mountain, plenty of talent remains. That will make a win no small task, but you will have a hard time convincing anyone Down East that it is an insurmountable one.

Including me.

But it will be a more difficult challenge than what Virginia Tech presented. Multiply that several times over if ECU fans abandon ship in the wake of a storm, seeking refuge in front of their television sets rather than braving the threatening rain.

After the Pirates’ performance in Charlotte, they deserve a greater commitment than what has been typical of similar scenarios the past.

“I’m very proud and very happy for these guys because they’ve worked so hard,” ECU AD Terry Holland said following the Pirates win over the Hokies. “The players and the coaches have. But again, we’ve got to follow up on our opportunities.”

Holland’s decree extends far beyond those who are listed on the Pirates’ numerical roster. It reaches to the premium seats of ECU’s most faithful donors, to the enthusiastic student section, and to the highest levels of the upper deck.

East Carolina will need more precision passing from Patrick Pinkney Saturday, along with more slippery runs from Jonathon Williams. A win over West Virginia will require another inspiring performance from that deep, talented defense and an improved effort on special teams.

Not to be overlooked is the value of each set of lungs that could fill Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. On a day when East Carolina has a legitimate chance against a Top 10 opponent, it’s hard to imagine a victory not accompanied by a raucous atmosphere on Saturday.

ECU’s coaches and players have done their part to set the stage for the most anticipated match-up in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium since Pittsburgh visited in 1991. My guess is they will give it their all against the Mountaineers.

Hopefully the fans will, too.

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09/22/2008 04:11:01 AM

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