Bong! Bong! Bong!
Don’t you just hate it? I do and I wish
East Carolina’s sound effects people would junk it.
It’s that infernal bell and funeral dirge that they play every time an
opponent faces a third down in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Oh, it was cute the first season, but
after that it’s just become an annoyance, whether it’s third and one or
third and 21.
Over the years, it seems to have been a
habit for the Pirates to relax on third down, especially if it’s third
and long. It would appear that ECU has a better chance at stopping third
and three than it does third and 13.
Even so, the bell rings as the Pirate
opponent snaps off the needed yardage to gain another first down.
Back in the days when my seat was in the
press box, covering the Pirates for The Daily Reflector, ECU
would be facing one of those long third down efforts. My next-seat
neighbor, another regular, would whisper to me, “Well, they got us where
they want us,” and sure enough, it would be “First Down, Whoever!”
Of course, this year, the Pirates are
facing a rebuilding year on defense and it has shown throughout the
season. There will be a lot of emphasis placed on this phase of the game
come spring drills.
According to the NCAA statistics, East
Carolina ranks way down the list in defending against third downs, 114th
as a matter of face. That leaves only six teams behind the Pirates in
what used to be Division I-A, now the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Through the Rice game, the Pirates’
opponents were successful on 68 of 141 third-down attempts, a percentage
Ironically, two Conference USA teams are
ranked below East Carolina, Houston and Rice. Houston, which came into
the season favored to win the West Division of the league, has stumbled
after losing its starting quarterback. The Cougars are ranked 115th,
allowing opponents to convert on 69 of 143 attempts, 48.25 percent.
Rice is ranked 119th — next to last —
having allowed opponents to succeed on 74 of 143 third-down tries, 52.45
However, the Owls offense bettered that
standard against the Pirates defense, making good on 10 of 16 third down
tries, along with two of two fourth-down attempts.
East Carolina has only one game left in
the regular season, a home date this Friday against Southern Methodist,
a team still in the thick of the Western race.
For the Pirates, there will be no trip to
the Liberty Bowl this year. They are bowl-eligible, however, and perhaps
they will get a bid somewhere.
That will give them an additional 15 days
to work on the defense before that bowl to go along with spring
One thing is certain; there must be a
significant improvement on the defense before the 2011 campaign.
And, I hope, they’ll do away with that