Season in Review
December 9, 2011
By Kevin Monroe
Injuries, mistakes made for bumpy season
(Through games of 12.03.11)
Conference USA record reflects
regular season games only
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The East Carolina football team had a challenging 2011 season filled
with more bad times than good. After five straight postseason
appearances, the Pirates will watch this year’s bowl games from
their living rooms.
playing one of the toughest non-conference
schedules in the nation, ECU dug
itself a big whole, going 1-4 out of the gates. As the season moved along,
the Pirates showed glimpses of good football but found it hard to
consistently move the football and avoid turnovers.
looked promising even in some of the early losses, but injuries and other
issues cropped up all along that hampered the team's progress and seemed to
set the pace for a season that never took shape the way fans hoped it would.
Against South Carolina in week one,
East Carolina tallied more first downs than the Gamecocks, had 130 more
passing yards and 50 less penalty yards. The key stat in that game was 5 ECU
turnovers. The Pirates actually had the led at halftime, but turned the ball
over 3 straight times to start the 3rd quarter, allowing USC to take a lead
that it would not relinquish. The Gamecocks were ranked 12th in the nation,
yet ECU played well enough to beat them had it avoided giveaways.
USC game, East Carolina welcomed No. 13 Virginia Tech to Greenville. This
game was the ultimate defensive battle. The Pirates faced one of the
nation’s top running backs in David Wilson and, even though he had a pretty
good day running the ball, the Hokies were kept off the score board for the
most part. Virginia Tech’s defense, led by coordinator Bud Foster, was
equally up to the challenge and shut down the Pirates' passing game. ECU
lost by 7 after just missing a pass
in the end zone that would have tied the score.
game is where fans started to realize this Pirate team was battling some
demons. East Carolina dominated the Blazers up and down the field, tallying
a season-best 542 yards on offense. That’s the good news; the bad news is
that the Pirates also set a team-high in turnovers with 7. Inexplicably, ECU
managed to win that game after
giving UAB so many opportunities.
North Carolina game was another one
the Pirates lost control of because of penalties and turnovers. East
Carolina had 8 more first downs than the Tar Heels and 200 more passing
yards. But the Pirates got behind early, couldn’t run the ball and were
forced to throw the ball more than desired (58 passing attempts.) North
Carolina did a nice job running the football behind Giovanni Bernard and the
ECU defense was unable to get off the field on some very crucial 3rd downs.
A 226-yard rushing day by the Heels combined with the Pirates' 4 turnovers
proved to be too much overcome.
was just an
old-fashioned butt whooping! The
Cougars rushed for 215 yard and passed for 357 yards. Not only could the
Pirates not stop them, but on most downs they weren’t even lined up yet when
Houston snapped. East Carolina’s running game was completely inept with 30
rushes for 21 yards. The passing game was better, but because of the lack of
a run game it became predictable. This led to another 4-turnover game.
Memphis and Navy had football teams that just weren’t as talented as the
Pirates. Dominique Davis had his best two-game run of his career, going 70
for 84 with no interceptions and recording 718 yards passing, 4 passing TD’s
and a couple of rushing scores. He set single-game and two-game NCAA records
for consecutive completions. He did not throw a pick in either game. His
play alone led the Pirates the road victories
over Memphis and
Navy. The defense also stepped up in
both of those games, especially when Navy had a chance to win the game on
its last possession.
Tulane game got the Pirates back to
a .500 record in front of the home fans. There was solid QB play as Davis
threw for 336 yards with only 1 interception and East Carolina had its 3rd
straight game with at least 125 yards rushing. The defense was on its game
as well, managing 2 takeaways and holding the Green wave to only 13 points.
quarter of the season was tough. East Carolina had a 7-0 lead on Southern
Miss and was driving to go up 14-0 before throwing an interception that was
returned for six. The Golden Eagles then returned a punt for 6 and returned
a blocked punt for 6 more before the end of the first quarter. It was the
strangest few minutes of football I have ever witnessed. ECU never recovered
from that three-touchdown blitz and
went on to lose 48-28.
a long road trip against a team East Carolina really needed to beat. That
was the first loss of the season to a team not as good as the Pirates. It
was on the road — and all conference games are tough — but
that loss is the reason ECU isn't
bowl eligible. The Miners didn’t do anything special; they just outlasted
the Pirates and did what they needed to do to win.
Central Florida and Marshall games were great games for fans to watch. The
managed a really nice win at home
over the Knights, but suffered
a heart-wrenching overtime loss on
the road to the Herd. Both games were winnable. The Pirates had 4 turnovers
against Marshall, creating a disadvantage for themselves in a conference
game on the road that virtually made the outcome inevitable. Marshall also
had its back to the wall and needed to win to get to a bowl game. The Herd
pulled out all the stops in order to get that victory.
future for the Pirates looks bright. The team is young and Coach Ruffin
McNeill is intent on continuing to grow the program by recruiting the best
of the best. Only 6 of the 22 starters from the Marshall game were seniors.
ECU will need to add some depth to the offensive line, running back, and
defensive back positions as well as replace the quarterback.
year’s non-conference schedule features the likes of West Virginia, North
Carolina, and Navy to name a few. The road won’t be easy but the view from
here looks pretty good. Houston will be back to reality without Case Keenum,
Southern Miss will likely be hiring its second new coach in 5 years, and
Central Florida’s program is headed in the wrong direction.
for East Carolina to start its rise back to the top of Conference USA.
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