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College Football in the Carolinas

View from the East
Thursday, August 23, 2001

By Al Myatt

ECU Battles Weather; Sooners Loom for UNC


Before examining the only game this weekend involving a Division I-A team from the Carolinas, North Carolina at Oklahoma, let’s quickly catch up with East Carolina as the Pirates prepare for the season opener with Wake Forest at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m.


The Pirates had their lengthiest single practice session of the preseason on Tuesday, about 2 1/2 hours, as the weather was cooperative — a rare occasion in the ECU camp this season.

Severe heat and rain have intermittently combined to adversely affect the Pirates’ practice time. Coach Steve Logan was generally pleased with a brief scrimmage in the midst of stormy conditions in the area on Saturday from the standpoint of improved execution by reserve personnel.

“We didn’t get everything accomplished just from the standpoint of number of snaps,” Logan said. “We have several things left on our installation board that we wanted to express and couldn’t do it.”

Wet ball drills for the receivers, who had an inordinate number of drops in the scrimmage’s wet conditions, and beginning to focus on Wake Forest were priorities for this week’s workouts.

“We’re going to begin to introduce some Wake Forest concepts,” Logan said. “We’re going to have the same situation as 1999 when we were Duke’s first opponent against a coaching staff we did not know.

“We’ve got the same issues again. We’re going to be guessing a lot about what it is we need to prepare for.”

First-year Deacons coach Jim Grobe ran a triple-option attack at Ohio but his personnel at Wake is more geared to a passing game.

Sophomore Anthony Young was thought to be ahead in the race at quarterback but junior James MacPherson has had a good preseason. Young, regarded as the better runner, has improved his passing and MacPherson, labeled a more accurate passer, has shown improved running ability.

“What happens when you aren’t sure about the style of offense you’ll be facing is that you develop a game plan that is very basic and then you make adjustments as the game progresses,” said ECU defensive coordinator Tim Rose.

The Deacs have reportedly made the transition to a 3-4 defensive scheme that is similar in philosophy to what Rose brought to ECU in 1999. Observers also expect the Deacons to be in better condition than in recent years.

The VCRs will likely be taping in the ECU football offices this week as five Pirates opponents (in CAPS) will be in action starting with New Mexico State at LOUISVILLE on Thursday.

Saturday's games include TCU at Nebraska, TULANE at Brigham Young, and UNC at Oklahoma. On Sunday, SYRACUSE matches up with Georgia Tech.


NORTH CAROLINA at OKLAHOMA, Sat., Aug. 25, 7:45 p.m.

The Sooners aren’t the same team that won the national championship by stifling Florida State 13-2 to complete a 13-0 season.

Nate Hybl is the new quarterback and there are four starters to replace in the interior of what was the Big 12’s best defense, including linebacker Torrance Marshall, the Orange Bowl MVP.

The returning cast includes 5-foot-6, 187-pound running back Quentin Griffin, who had 1,252 all-purpose yards and 17 touchdowns last season. He scored the only touchdown in the national title game. The top seven receivers are also back, which should speed Hybl’s adjustment.

On defense, linebacker Rocky Calmus and safety Roy Williams project as leaders. Calmus had 128 tackles and four sacks in 2000 while Williams had 99 tackles and two interceptions.

Sooners coach Bob Stoops has been away from practice some this week because one of his family’s three young children was hospitalized out of state. The Oklahoma sports information department was very limited initially about what it released on the situation.

The Sooners have their specialists back, kicker Tim Duncan and punter Jeff Ferguson.

Coincidently, Ferguson’s brother, Blake, was projected as UNC’s punter until he decided to leave the program in the preseason. That brought some comments from Tar Heels coach John Bunting about Ferguson’s competitive desire that were perceived by many to be derogatory and unneccesary.

Another coincidence — the Fergusons are from Broken Arrow, Okla., which happens to be where Steve Logan grew up.

Getting back to what will be the real issues on Saturday night:

UNC’s strength is its defensive line, which features Julius Peppers and Ryan Sims. Whether Hybl has anything approaching the finesse of his predecessor Josh Heupel will be a key here. It’s not likely anyone will simply overpower Carolina up front.

UNC’s relatively inexperienced offensive line is the big question mark. Can it protect quarterback Ronald Curry?

The two-sport standout has needed little excuse to scramble effectively for much of his career but the approach of new offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill will be to release the running backs as safety valves for Curry rather than keep them back to pick up blitzes.

Oklahoma has been looking at tapes of Virginia, where Tranquill last worked, and Ohio State, where new UNC defensive coordinatorJon Tenuta came from, in order to get a feel for what they might see from the Heels.

That bit of uncertainty is in Carolina’s favor and could make the early stages a feeling out process for the Sooners.

Tradition certainly favors Oklahoma, which leads the series 6-0 and has dominated the total scoring, 160-19.

Officially, it’s the Hispanic College Fund Classic, an event in which Texas Tech, ECU’s 2000 bowl opponent, topped New Mexico 24-3 last year.

If I remember my Spanish correctly, muy malo is very bad. Even if that’s not right, that seems to be what everyone is expecting for the Heels, who are 23-point underdogs.

This game will provide a quick read on the level of mental toughness Bunting has injected into the program. Location (72,000 Sooners' fans) favors the Sooners, as they try to preserve the momentum from their seventh national championship.

Carolina needs to play a near perfect game to have a chance, a task complicated by the relative newness of the schemes they’ll be playing.

Prediction: Oklahoma 35, North Carolina 16.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

02/23/2007 01:02:55 AM

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