College Football in the Carolinas
from the East
Monday, October 29, 2001
By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer
Focused Pirates Have Eyes
on the Prize
It may not put a smile on the bespectacled face of South Carolina coach
Lou Holtz, who was disappointed with a 17-10 loss at Tennessee, but the
Gamecocks have held on to the top spot in the State Line Power Rankings.
The Gamecocks did what they were supposed to do in terms of the
Associated Press rankings. They were on the road against a higher-ranked
team — and they lost a tight game. Statistically, USC played the Vols close.
There was a possibility of moving North Carolina, which had an open date
before this Thursday night's game at Georgia Tech, into No. 1 but that would
be, in affect, rewarding inactivity. That’s hardly appropriate for a John
Bunting-coached team, is it?
The Tar Heels have a chance to take the top spot in the power rankings,
as well as the ACC championship, with a good showing in Atlanta. But those
are matters for future resolution.
Here’s how the teams stack up this week, which incidentally is exactly
how they stacked up last week:
State Line Power
1. South Carolina ... Loss at Tennessee doesn’t affect Gamecocks’ hold
on top spot.
2. North Carolina ... Maryland’s loss at Florida State helps UNC’s ACC
3. East Carolina ... Pirates continue quest for C-USA crown at Texas
Christian on Tuesday night.
4. Clemson ... As Woody goes, so go the Tigers — and he went for a win
5. N.C. State ... The Wolfpack looked like the team its fans expected
6. Wake Forest ... Deacons have nothing but another close loss for
7. Duke ... Victory seems to see the Blue Devils coming — and crosses
Looking at the programs individually:
If it’s Tuesday, it must be Fort Worth.
The Pirates and TCU try to advance the burgeoning concept of Tuesday
night football on ESPN 2 with an 8 p.m. kickoff.
In the first such contest, Louisville defeated Southern Miss 28-14 on
Oct. 16 and Cardinals coach John L. Smith expressed an affinity for the
arrangement. Smith liked it better than an open date, because it allowed
some extra time for preparation and healing without the loss of focus which
he said the longer layoff can produce.
As far as focus goes, the Pirates appear to have a bead on the Conference
USA title. Quarterback David Garrard felt that factor would help ECU
overcome any of the unusual circumstances of a Tuesday night game.
“We just need to go play football and everything else will take care of
itself,” Garrard said following a 32-11 win over Memphis on Oct. 20 in the
Pirates’ last game. ECU clicked in all facets of the game in the Homecoming
contest — offensively, defensively and on special teams.
The Pirates should be ready mentally, physically and emotionally for the
meat of the league schedule — starting in Texas on Tuesday night.
A few seemingly inconspicuous personnel matters have helped the Pirates
heading into their stretch run.
Moving Arnie Powell to tight end has given Garrard a capable target at
that position although Corey Floyd is a more of a heavy duty blocker. Former
quarterback Richard Alston appears to have found his natural position as a
The return of Kelly Hardy at cornerback after a three-game absence seemed
to boost the pass defense a great deal in the Memphis game. Pirates coach
Steve Logan said the problem in intermediate pass coverage was greatly
improved with the presence of Hardy, ECU’s “best coverage corner.”
And you can never have enough experienced bodies on the offensive line.
When Chris Nelson went out with a fractured tibia in the first series of the
first game, it set off a sequence of musical chairs on the offensive front
that the average fan doesn’t appreciate.
That the Pirates were able to maintain a high degree of success with
Leonard Henry running the ball is another testimony to the depth that ECU
and offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler have been able to develop.
That theme was obvious the latter part of last season as ECU was able to
beat Southern Miss and Texas Tech after the offensive line was decimated at
West Virginia. That’s testimony from the trenches to the program in place at
With the score tied at 10, Tennessee converted on third-and-21 at the
South Carolina 36 with Vols quarterback Casey Clausen passing for 32 yards
to Bobby Graham for first-and-goal at the USC four. That led to a
game-winning touchdown by Travis Stephens on a 1-yard run with 7:08 left to
The Gamecocks had tied the score with a field goal with 13:21 left after
USC fullback Andrew Pinnock was stopped on third-and-goal at the Tennessee
“When you look back at this game, these are the kind that hurt,” said USC
coach Lou Holtz. “Because if you make this play or that play. ... We came up
a play short. They converted once again on third-and-long with the score
tied in the fourth quarter. We let them out on a consistent basis.”
South Carolina is 0-11 at Neyland Stadium and lost its ninth straight to
“We always talk about controlling the ball in the fourth quarter,” said
Tennessee receiver Kelley Washington. “We feel our offensive line is going
to be able to pound the defense and that’s when Travis really gets going.”
Stephens ran 28 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns as Tennessee and
Florida have just one SEC loss each atop the East Division. South Carolina
(6-2, 5-2 SEC) and Georgia each have two league losses.
South Carolina lost the ball on downs at the Tennessee 38 with 58 seconds
left — after driving from its own 5-yard line — to seal the outcome.
The Gamecocks host Division I-AA Wofford on Saturday at 1 p.m. The
Terriers, coming off a 13-0 win over The Citadel, are a fill-in since an
earlier game with Bowling Green on Sept. 15 was canceled.
A graphic during the Notre Dame-Boston College telecast on Saturday night
listed the teams that had turned their seasons around. Syracuse, the Tar
Heels and the Fighting Irish were on the list.
UNC has won five straight after an 0-3 start and is in the thick of the
running for the ACC’s slot in the BCS.
“North Carolina is a team with tremendous athletes,” said Georgia Tech
coach George O’Leary, whose team hosts UNC on Thursday night. “John Bunting
has them playing hard and playing with a lot of confidence right now. When
you win five straight, you have a lot of talent. They’ve played good defense
right from game one. Their offense has put it together now, and they’re
helping each other, which is the sign of a good football team.
“It’ll be a heckuva ballgame Thursday night.”
Tech has the ACC’s best passing offense, averaging 279 yards per game,
while UNC features the league’s best pass defense, allowing 182.9 yards a
Two of the nation’s top defensive ends will be on display, Tech’s Greg
Gathers, who leads the ACC in sacks with nine and UNC’s Julius Peppers, who
Tech has already played once this season in the national spotlight on
Thursday night on ESPN, losing 20-17 in overtime to Maryland on Oct. 11. The
Yellow Jackets are 6-6 on Thursday night on ESPN. Counting Thanksgiving,
Tech’s overall record on Thursday is 28-19-2.
UNC has lost three straight to the Jackets.
And speaking of Peppers, The Sporting News ranks him fourth on its
Heisman Trophy watch list behind UCLA running back DeShaun Foster, Nebraska
quarterback Eric Crouch and Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey.
The ineffectiveness Woodrow Dantzler experienced a week earlier against
North Carolina evaporated at Wake Forest. Held to 116 yards before he was
benched in a 38-3 loss to UNC, Dantzler produced 330 of Clemson’s 391 total
yards in a 21-14 win over the Deacons.
Dantzler threw for two touchdowns and ran 10 yards for the other. He
completed 16 of 27 passes for 211 yards and ran 20 times for 119 more.
“I’m glad Dantzler is graduating,” said Wake defensive end Calvin Pace.
“I thought for the most part we contained him, but in pressure situations,
he scrambled and got the first down. What can I say? Great players make
The Tigers improved to 5-2 overall, 3-2 in the ACC and their bowl
prospects look solid.
Clemson used eight men in the box defensively against the Deacons,
abandoning a 4-2-5 alignment that defensive coordinator Reggie Herring
installed this season. The scheme produced a pair of interceptions by Chad
Carson and Charles Hafley in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers won’t dwell long on the win over the Deacons, not with Florida
State coming to town on Saturday. Bobby Bowden, now third on the career
Division I-A wins list with 320, gave son Tommy, the Tigers’ boss, a 54-7
whipping last season in Tallahassee.
The Wolfpack fans who sat through chilly, breezy conditions only to see
State lead Virginia 3-0 at halftime at Carter-Finley Stadium, were finally
rewarded. The Pack scored three touchdowns in less than seven minutes in the
third quarter and posted a 24-0 win over Virginia, State’s first shutout of
an ACC opponent since beating Duke 16-0 in 1990.
Ray Robinson ran for a season-high 105 yards in the win and scored
State’s first two touchdowns. He credited the lead blocking of Cotra
“Cotra told me to trust him and run behind him, and he would make things
happen,” Robinson said. “That’s the kind of bond we’re getting as a team
right now, where guys really trust each other.”
A blocked Cavaliers punt by Brian Williams, the fifth of his career, led
to a 1-yard scoring run by Pack quarterback Philip Rivers.
State had 413 yards of total offense — going over 400 yards for the first
time this season. Virginia had just 215 total yards as State preserved its
shutout with a late goal-line stand after the Cavs had first-and-goal at the
NCSU 2-yard line.
“We do live goal line every Tuesday and we go against each other,” said
State coach Chuck Amato. “Every time either defense allows a score, they run
a gasser after practice. ... The stand really gets the crowd into the game
and gets the electricity back.”
The Pack’s power should continue to surge on Saturday at Duke.
Three turnovers all proved costly for Wake Forest, which played junior
quarterback James MacPherson all the way as sophomore Anthony Young sat out
with a fractured right foot.
MacPherson lost a fumble on an opening drive by the Deacons and threw two
fourth quarter interceptions, one on a fade pass that was picked off in the
end zone with four minutes to go.
“We had three turnovers and they had one,” said first-year Deacons coach
Jim Grobe. “You’ve got to take care of the football when you’ve got a chance
to put points on the board.”
Fred Staton ran for 95 yards for Wake as Tarence Williams was limited by
a sprained right ankle.
The Deacons visit Virginia on Saturday.
“They’re playing about as hard as they can play,” Grobe said of his team.
“... We are a work in progress and it’s not going to happen overnight.”
Duke sophomore Chris Douglas ran 29 times for 169 yards in a 42-28 loss
to Vanderbilt in Durham that extended the Blue Devils’ nation’s-longest
losing streak to 20 games.
“We ran the ball well,” said Duke coach Carl Franks. “It wasn’t a good
day to throw with the wind but D. (quarterback D. Bryant) was just off with
his throws. Injuries have limited his practice time, but right now he gives
us the best chance to win.”
Duke has lost seven straight to State, but the last three have been
decided by seven points or less.
“Every year we seem to play N.C. State hard and it always comes down to
the last play,” Franks said. “We have to put this game behind us, put the
film, get ready for N.C. State and give them all we have.”
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