August 31, 2013
By Al Myatt
Compacted game week ahead
All rights reserved.
GREENVILLE — The part of
Pirate Nation that lives for football got a needed transfusion Saturday
night. It was a time to harken back over 50 years and focus forward on a
short week that will mark the start of play in Conference USA.
Sandwiched between the golden
anniversary celebration of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium's opening and the pending
clash with Florida Atlantic was a 52-38 East Carolina win over Old Dominion
and scrambling Monarchs quarterback Taylor Heinicke.
Shane Carden had better
numbers than his signal-calling counterpart but Heinicke presented the
embodiment of an upset, much like what Kansas State experienced against
North Dakota State or Connecticut did against Towson on opening week.
Carden came out throwing and
finished with 46 completions on 54 attempts for 447 yards and five
touchdowns. He broke his own school record for passing yards, which was set
a 65-59 double overtime win over Marshall
to conclude the 2012 regular season.
Carden received intravenous
fluids to rehydrate afterward.
Justin Hardy was his favorite
target, tying his own school record for catches set last year against the
Thundering Herd with 16 for 191 yards.
The offense is essentially a
year older with eight starters back from an 8-5 team and without the
quarterback competition that preceded the 2012 season.
Its maturity showed in the
timing, effectiveness and consistency against ODU, albeit a program that is
in the midst of a transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision and Conference
Questions about the loss of
Justin Jones and Jabril Soloman were answered as 11 receivers had catches.
True freshman Davon Grayson had three scoring grabs.
Isaiah Jones, the son of
Pirate linebacker Robert Jones, a mainstay on the 11-1 team in 1991 who went
on to play for the Dallas Cowboys, also had a scoring reception on a fade
Danny Webster had eight
catches for 79 yards and Reese Wiggins had seven receptions for 48 yards as
Carden went through his progressions effectively.
"It's more like we're one,"
Hardy said of the offensive unit sans its search for a leader that took
place a year ago. "Shane knows where we're going to be. He knows where to
put the ball and make plays."
Almost 50 years ago, it was
the Pirates, not ODU, who were looking to knock off a higher-division
program. East Carolina did so
with a 20-10 win over Wake Forest on Sept. 21,1963,
in the first game at then-Ficklen Stadium.
The Pirates have since
progressed to become a power in the Southern Conference and were an
ambitious independent before joining Conference USA. The program is at
another crossroads with pending membership in the American Athletic
Conference next year.
Beforehand, the Pirates will
aim for another C-USA championship.
In the reduced time frame,
Sunday becomes Tuesday in terms of a normal Saturday playing date.
The Pirates will honor their
normal 24-hour buffer — or close to it — before turning their undivided
attention to Florida Atlantic.
"We'll keep it light (Sunday)
because of the length of the game tonight," said fourth-year ECU coach
Ruffin McNeill. "Monday will be that Tuesday/Wednesday for us. Tuesday has
to be almost like a Thursday, a big team day. Wednesday will be a rehearsal
and walk-through day.
"We've got to make sure we get
our legs back and be ready to go," McNeill said.
The Pirates began preparing
for FAU during fall camp in anticipation of the time constraints this week.
The Owls lost 34-6 at Miami on Thursday night so they will have one more day
of preparation, although they have the added factor of traveling.
"It's a short week," Hardy
said. "We've got to get off our feet and relax tonight. We'll enjoy the win
but nothing too crazy. We'll come in (Sunday) and get loose. We'll practice
Monday and Tuesday and be ready to go Thursday.
"After tonight, this game is
last week," Hardy said.
Senior safety Damon Magazu led
ECU with 11 tackles, including a team-high seven solo stops.
It appeared ECU's defense got
better as the night went on, limiting ODU to just 76 of its 460 yards of
total offense in the fourth quarter.
Being physically conditioned
to prevail at the close of games is an expressed goal of Pirates strength
and conditioning coach Jeff Connors.
"We made some adjustments,"
Magazu said. "That's a credit (to) our defensive coordinator (Rick Smith)
and our defensive staff. They were making adjustments the entire game. They
fixed what needed to be fixed. I think we started to play a lot better as
the game went on. It also goes to getting the rust off and getting the
The Pirates and 44,597 fans
witnessed a game-changing defensive touchdown when Ty Holmes took an ODU
fumble 26 yards for a touchdown on the first possession of the second half
to expand ECU's lead to 28-17.
"I saw the pocket converge,
the ball squirt out and Ty pick it up and run," Magazu said. "That's all I
could see. I was backing up in coverage, trying to make my reads."
The defensive touchdown gave
the Pirates a two-possession lead. Although Heinicke and the Monarchs were
able to answer, ECU more than kept pace offensively to lock down the season
There is still a realization
that the Pirates have work to do before they play again.
"We've got to fix the mistakes
first," Magazu said. "We'll do that Sunday when we come in. Then we'll start
focusing on Thursday night's game."
E-mail Al Myatt.
09/01/13 04:26 AM.