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College Football in the Carolinas
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View from the East
Monday, October 8, 2001

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Brown's Courageous Performance
Created Memorable Impression

©2001 Bonesville.net

The lasting image of East Carolina’s 24-21 loss at North Carolina on Saturday will be one of Art Brown returning a kickoff after the Tar Heels had taken a 21-13 lead early in the fourth quarter.

The Heels kicked away from Pirates freshman Marvin Townes all afternoon, but Brown was ready to make a play as he went along the ECU sideline shaking and breaking tackles before cutting across the field in UNC territory.

He was almost to the goal line and ready to score when the ball was knocked from his grasp by Derrick Johnson of the Tar Heels. The ball bounced through the end zone and out of bounds for a touchback. Carolina’s ball at their 20.

An incredible sequence of events within the span of a few seconds. For the Pirates, a great effort with no reward — much like the game as a whole.

The teams hadn’t played in 20 years and ECU hadn’t scored in Kenan Stadium in 21. Despite the magnitude of the non-conference game and the enormity of the disappointment for the ECU contingent, I thought the Pirates handled themselves with class.

“North Carolina is a great, great football team,” Brown said. “My hat’s off to them.”

Coach Steve Logan was obviously crestfallen at the number of breaks that went against the Pirates. But he managed to dish out a bit of that Will Rogers-Oklahoma humor.

“I would have loved to have had a ticket and a Pepsi and watched it,” he said. “But I couldn’t. I had to work.”

It’s been said that you find out more about team’s character after losses than wins. ECU has some issues to address in terms of its passing game and its pass defense. No one wants to lose but the manner in which the Pirates handled a difficult defeat was much to their credit.

Elsewhere, South Carolina is 3-0 in the SEC East and 5-0 overall after wiping out Kentucky. The Gamecocks got a helping hand from Georgia in the division race as the Bulldogs upset host Tennessee.

N.C. State took advantage of Wake Forest turnovers and rallied for a 17-14 win that kept the Wolfpack’s hopes alive for the ACC championship. Duke played competitively for a half before Georgia Tech handed the Blue Devils their 17th straight loss.

Clemson had a week off, which must have been a good thing for the Tigers considering their volume of injuries.

Here’s how the Division I-A teams in the Carolinas stack up.

State Line Power Rankings© [100801]

1. South Carolina ... Even Lou Holtz could relax as the Gamecocks rolled over Kentucky.
2. Clemson ... Tigers assistant Mike O’Cain returns to Raleigh this week.
3. North Carolina ... Quite a turnaround for the Tar Heels.
4. East Carolina ... Two straight losses for the first time since 1998.
5. N.C. State ... Not overly impressive the last three games.
6. Wake Forest ... Fast start against State but nothing to show for it.
7. Duke ... Deacons up next and a chance to end their losing streak.


UPDATING THE CAROLINAS

EAST CAROLINA:

One of the side effects of the East Carolina-North Carolina matchup was supposed to be an impact on in-state recruiting, but the Pirates probably made a strong enough showing to keep their position in the statewide perception from deteriorating.

“We’ve got our eyes on some good players and we’ve got some good commitments,” said ECU tight ends coach Terry Tilghman, who is among the staff members who recruit within the state. “Hopefully we can secure this group and go back to winning football games.”

Pass defense is yet another concern. I was told the Pirates were playing zone the last two games. It seems they’re giving receivers a big cushion and not closing when the ball is thrown. How much of it is stacking up to stop the run I’m not sure, but Syracuse and UNC have had minimal success on the ground.

More pressure on the quarterback and better containment would help. Seven touchdown passes in two games is too many.

It’s been noted that the last time ECU had a losing record this late in a season was 1997. That was the year that the running game all but vanished with a youthful offensive line.

The Pirates concealed that deficiency as much as possible with quarterback Dan Gonzalez operating in a dropback passing mode. Running back Scott Harley was just a shadow of the previous season with no place to run.

Current quarterback David Garrard is in a similar situation. ECU’s top three receivers from last year — Marcellus Harris, Keith Stokes and Rashon Burns — are gone. Torey Morris and Aaron Harris have been sidelined by injuries. The Pirates have a great passer but the receiving corps is depleted.

Fortunately, the running game has been productive with Leonard Henry compiling his fourth straight 100-plus yard effort in Chapel Hill and Brown contributing some moments of brilliance as well.

The last time the Pirates lost to UNC, ECU had no league race to refocus on and went on to finish the season 5-6. The good news now is that the Conference USA championship is still a realistic goal.

Southern Miss, a longtime nemesis, had five turnovers and was upset at Memphis on Saturday.

The next six games, starting at Army this week, will determine whether ECU, currently 1-0 in the league, can achieve a C-USA championship for the first time.

“If we take this and build, we’ll be fine,” Logan said after the UNC game. “And if we don`t, we won’t be fine. We can’t play any less than 110 percent or we’re not going to be good enough. We were 110 percent today and we’ve got to duplicate that down the stretch.”

SOUTH CAROLINA:

The Gamecocks were up to No. 9 in the coaches poll after dismantling Kentucky 42-6 for the Wildcats’ 12th straight SEC loss.

One of the loudest cheers of the day from a crowd of 80,250 at Williams-Brice Stadium came when Georgia’s 26-24 win over Tennessee was announced. The Gamecocks already have a win over the Dawgs and visit Tennessee on Oct. 27.

“It was nice to win convincingly,” said USC coach Lou Holtz. “We had a chance to play a lot of people. ... I talked this week about paying full price for a victory, not to try to bargain for it.

"We paid the full price for this football game. We approached it well. The coaches did a good job. Offensively, defensively, the kicking game — all did a good job.”

The point total was USC’s highest in six years. After an 0-11 season in 1999 that included a 21-3 loss at home to East Carolina, Gamecocks quarterback Phil Petty said he didn’t expect the kind of success the team has had this year.

“It didn’t look very good,” said Petty, who threw for two touchdowns without an interception. “We just had to be patient and get things turned around. We have to play for each other. Things can’t happen during the game to pull us apart.”

The Gamecocks announced a contract extension this past week for athletic director Mike McGee, head coach at ECU in 1970. McGee, who arrived at USC in 1993, got a four-year extension to April 30, 2005 and a five percent raise to $188,905 annually.

CLEMSON:

This week will be a trip down Memory Lane for Tigers quarterback coach Mike O’Cain. A former Tigers quarterback himself, O’Cain returns to N.C. State, where he coached for 14 years (1986-1999), the final seven as head coach.

O’Cain was an assistant at ECU in 1985 and his 23-6 loss to the Pirates in the regular season finale in Greenville in 1999 was his last game as head coach of the Wolfpack. Clemson’s next game is at home against UNC, where O’Cain spent last year as offensive coordinator.

Tigers coach Tommy Bowden was on the Florida State staff with NCSU coach Chuck Amato, so this will really be a time to greet old friends.

Clemson hopes to maintain some momentum from its 47-44 overtime win at Georgia Tech before its open date. The Yellow Jackets were ranked No. 9 by the Associated Press going into the game.

Clemson hadn’t won against such a highly-ranked opponent on the road in 20 years. Clemson is No. 18 in the current coaches poll.

NORTH CAROLINA:

UNC has the toughest schedule in the nation according to last week’s Sagarin ratings and the Tar Heels have responded with three straight wins after an 0-3 start.

“I’m very impressed with the character of this football team,” said first-year coach John Bunting after the ECU game. “... To be down at halftime and go back out and play another great second half. Obviously our kids are in great condition. They have a lot of energy.”

The two-quarterback system that has evolved for the Heels flourished again. Freshman Darian Durant completed 11 of 17 for 151 yards and two touchdowns while senior Ronald Curry connected on 10 of 16 for 127 yards and a score.

Curry netted 40 yards rushing and Durant added 12. Neither had an inteception.

“Both quarterbacks were outstanding and very opportunistic,” Bunting said. “They kept our defense off the field.”

UNC finished with 35:42 in possession time to 24:18 for ECU.

N.C. STATE:

Similar to its trip to SMU, the Wolfpack needed a comeback to get a win and Coach Amato pointed out that that was the bottom line.

“It was not picture perfect,” said the State coach. “We missed a lot of big plays, dropping interceptions, dropping passes and a lot of holding penalties. The best thing that happened is that we had more points than they did.”

NCSU sophomore quarterback Philip Rivers completed 20 of 32 passes for 180 yards and scored the winning touchdown on a 1-yard keeper with 6:02 left in the third quarter — the only points of the second half.

“They kept it close and we were able to keep the ball for possession,” Rivers said. “We didn’t put a lot of points on the board but we put up enough points to win.”

Wake had 208 yards of offense in the first half but just 108 in the second half.

WAKE FOREST:

After a 2-0 start, the Deacons have lost three straight. Wake led 14-3 in the second quarter on Saturday night but had costly turnovers in the second half, losing a fumble at the State 20-yard line and an interception after reaching the Pack 13.

“N.C. State closed off our inside running game in the second half,” said Wake coach Jim Grobe. “It put us in a lot of second and long situations. ... When we look at the game we’ll see that it was a game of missed opportunities.”

Anthony Young played most of the way at quarterback for the Deacons because of an ankle injury to James MacPherson. Young completed just four of 12 passes for 45 yards and threw the interception on third-and-6 at the State 13.

“Inconsistencies really hurt us tonight,” Grobe said. “I don’t think we have our heads down. But you work hard and put effort into something and you’d like to get something out of it.

“We’ll get back together and get back to work. The kids know they lost to a good football team.”

Tarence Williams ran 25 times for 113 yards for Wake Forest.

“He played well,” Grobe said. “But this is a team game. You can’t go in with one or two guys and expect to win in this league.”

DUKE:

The Associated Press reported that the Blue Devils had lost 18 straight after their 37-10 loss to No. 17 Georgia Tech. Duke’s losing streak is actually 17 games, the longest current losing streak in the nation, but when things have been sour for so long it’s easy to lose count.

Things didn’t look too bad for 30 minutes as Tech led 17-10 at the half.

“Overall we played well in the first half,” said Duke coach Carl Franks. “But they came out after halftime and stuffed us. We didn’t pass well, we didn’t run well and defensively, we didn’t play well. We didn’t play smart. We didn’t coach well.”

Interceptions set up Duke’s points. Chris Douglas ran for 94 yards for the Blue Devils and D. Bryant threw for 201.

“We have to learn to play two halves instead of just a half,” Douglas said.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Click here to dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 01:03:12 AM
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