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College Football in the Carolinas
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View from the East
Monday, October 29, 2001

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Focused Pirates Have Eyes on the Prize

©2001 Bonesville.net

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 Rankings© [102901]

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 title chances.

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 at Wake.

5. N.C. State ... The Wolfpack looked like the team its fans expected against Virginia.

6. Wake Forest ... Deacons have nothing but another close loss for their effort.

7. Duke ... Victory seems to see the Blue Devils coming — and crosses the street.


UPDATING THE CAROLINAS

Looking at the programs individually:

EAST CAROLINA

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 receiver.

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 ECU.

SOUTH CAROLINA

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 play.

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 1-yard line.

“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 the Vols.

“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.

NORTH CAROLINA

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 game.

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 has eight.

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.

CLEMSON

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 great plays.”

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.

N.C. STATE

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 Jackson.

“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.

WAKE FOREST

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

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.”

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

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

02/23/2007 01:03:19 AM
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