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College Football in the Carolinas
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View from the East
Monday, November 5, 2001

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Unlike ACC and SEC Brethren, Only
ECU Controls Its League Title Destiny

©2001 Bonesville.net

The race for conference football championships as far as Division I teams in the Carolinas are concerned has become clearly defined with the arrival of November.

And only one — East Carolina in Conference USA — controls its own fate. Scenarios for North Carolina in the ACC and South Carolina in the SEC to win titles are complicated and require improbable assistance. Still, it looks like at least five teams will be bowl eligible and only Duke has been eliminated from qualifying for a postseason excursion.

ECU is 4-0 in a league for the first time since the 1973 team went 7-0 in the Southern Conference.

The league schedule will get tougher for the Pirates. Their last three opponents — Cincinnati (4-1 C-USA), Louisville (4-0) and Southern Miss (2-2) — are a combined 10-3 in league play. Louisville, 8-1 overall, has moved up to No. 25 in both major polls after a dominating 52-7 win at Tulane.

“Our defense has caught up with our offense,” proclaimed Cardinals coach John L. Smith last week.

The stage is getting set for a big game in Greenville on Thursday night, Nov. 15 on ESPN when Louisville comes to town — providing neither stumbles this week. Louisville hosts Houston on Saturday and the Pirates visit Cincinnati before each heads into a short week of preparation for the Thursday nighter.

Southern Miss, 4-3 overall, doesn’t appear to have one of its better teams. The Golden Eagles lost 38-20 on Saturday to resurgent Penn State but they always play well against the Pirates. USM leads the series with ECU 19-7, including 1-11 in Greenville. The Pirates’ only win at home against the Golden Eagles was 48-0 in 1976.

If ECU plays as it did in the first half at TCU in building a 27-3 lead, the Pirates should be all right down the stretch. The importance of avoiding turnovers and special teams mistakes was underlined. Still, the Pirates got a quality win at TCU. The Horned Frogs had lost just twice in their last 14 home games.

The only matter for consideration in the State Line Power Rankings was whether the Pirates should move ahead of the Tar Heels into second place. It’s hard to overlook a 24-21 UNC win in their head-to-head meeting even though good fortune so overwhelmingly smiled on the Heels that day. So, no changes — for the third straight week.

State Line Power Rankings© [110501]

1. South Carolina ... A 38-14 win over Division I-AA Wofford. What were you expecting?

2. North Carolina ... Looked like Georgia Tech’s game plan in 28-21 win over the Heels was based on the ECU-UNC tape.

3. East Carolina ... A tale of two halves at TCU with a happy ending for the Pirates.

4. Clemson ... For the third time, Papa Bobby rules in the Bowden Bowl.

5. N.C. State ... Wolfpack has a huge first half in a record-setting 55-31 win at Duke.

6. Wake Forest ... After all these years, a win over Virginia.

7. Duke ... One good half isn’t enough. Again.


UPDATING THE CAROLINAS

EAST CAROLINA

Between Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA, Game 3 of the World Series and ECU’s 37-30 win over TCU on ESPN 2, Tuesday night was a busy one for television remotes. The Pirates and Horned Frogs got a 0.38 television rating against some tough competition.

“It was a good game but no one could have anticipated those options when the game was scheduled,” said Mike Humes of ESPN.

What much of the country missed was Leonard Henry scoring three touchdowns and becoming the first ECU back since Scott Harley in 1996 to go over 1,000 yards in a season. Henry now has 1,039 yards rushing, the fifth best total in the nation this season.

Pirates defensive coordinator Tim Rose earned a Purple Heart — actually a purple left knee — when he was hit on the sideline on a kickoff return. And some people wonder why Steve Logan crouches on the 25-yard line well away from the action.

“Ask Coach Rose,” Logan said. “There’s nowhere to go except up when those 300-pound freight trains are coming at you — and I can’t fly. Actually, I’ve got a good perspective on the offensive line and that’s what I’m watching. You can’t see the wide receivers anyway, unless you’re in the press box.”

David Garrard passed for 199 yards and two touchdowns in the first half but had just 22 yards passing in the second half. I hope the NFL scouts had gone to bed or were watching another channel when the Pirates senior signal caller made an ill-advised pitch deep in his own territory in the second half that led to a turnover and a TCU score.

The Frogs threw caution to the wind in the second half and were 6 of 8 on fourth down conversions.

“People who don’t care are dangerous,” Logan said.

Look for sophomore Terrance Copper to be more involved in punt returns after a muff by freshman Marvin Townes led to his third turnover this season on a punt return.

“We know Terrance will catch the ball,” Logan said. “Marvin is a very conscientious kid and his confidence is down a little right now.”

Pirates trainer Mike Hanley is optimistic that senior offensive lineman Chris Nelson will be available before the end of the season after sustaining a strained MCL at TCU. It was just Nelson’s second game since going out with a fractured tibia in the season opener.

Safety Antwan Adams is likely to return from a second-half concussion in Fort Worth.

The unique positioning of the TCU game — 10 days after the 32-11 win over Memphis and 11 days before the game at Cincinnati — allowed some advance scheming for Louisville. Coach Logan put the formula to use that he discovered after preparing for Syracuse the week before that game was postponed. The Pirates worked on Louisville on Thursday and Friday before shifting their focus to this week’s game with the Bearcats.

SOUTH CAROLINA

The Gamecocks scored on their first four possessions for a 24-0 lead against Wofford. USC (7-2) ran for 247 yards, mixing a methodical ground game with short passes to subdue its Division I-AA foe. Phil Petty completed 15 of 20 passes for 160 yards and he kept for two scores.

Coincidently, Wofford also lost 38-14 at Clemson in the season opener.

Next up for the fans at Williams-Brice Stadium is a visit from Florida, ranked No. 3 by the Associated Press and No. 4 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll.

“Florida would be more comfortable playing on Sunday (NFL),” said USC coach Lou Holtz. “We have to play a flawless game. I don’t know if we can. We’ve got a chance to win the Eastern Division and go to the (SEC) championship game. The bad news is that we’ve got to play Florida.”

More bad news. The scenario that would get USC to the SEC title game would probably require Tennessee losses to Vanderbilt, Kentucky and the Gators.

“The championship comes through Columbia, but it’s no layover stop,” Holtz said. “... We probably should forfeit, get beat 2-0, then at least it would be close.”

South Carolina has jumped from No. 20 to No. 15 in this week’s AP poll and surged from No. 17 to No. 14 in the coaches poll.

NORTH CAROLINA

The Tar Heels were susceptible to the run, a factor ECU established in its game in Chapel Hill on Oct. 10. The Pirates ran for 190 yards in that loss as highly-regarded defensive end Julius Peppers made just two tackles. Georgia Tech’s Joe Burns ran for a career-high 198 yards as Peppers was again credited with just two stops.

“We felt going into the game that we could run the ball with success against North Carolina and we proved we could,” Burns said.

Nat Dorsey, a 325-pound true freshman for the Yellow Jackets, appeared to overpower Peppers at times.

UNC’s own ground game produced a net of just 13 yards, but freshman quarterback Darian Durant compensated by throwing for 286 yards and three touchdowns.

“We haven’t had this feeling in quite a while,” said Durant after a five-game winning streak was halted. We had big dreams for this year.”

The Tar Heels dropped out of the AP poll. The Heels need two wins for bowl eligibility and will be favored to do so against a remaining schedule that includes home games with Wake Forest, Duke and SMU. UNC (5-4) is 2-4 on the road but 3-0 at Kenan Stadium.

CLEMSON

Well, Coach Bobby Bowden didn’t take son Tommy out behind the woodshed for a 54-7 whipping as in Tallahassee last season but as comfort levels go, Florida State’s 41-27 win at Clemson on Saturday, didn’t make for many gray hairs on the Seminoles chief. Bobby is now 3-0 against his son, the Tigers coach — not that he enjoys the role of winner within his own family.

“I felt like both of us had to have it,” said the Noles coach. “Tommy needed momentum. We did, too, but it didn’t feel real good.”

The Noles stayed in contention for their 10th straight ACC championship as FSU freshman quarterback Chris Rix matched up against senior counterpart, Woody Dantzler, of the Tigers.

Rix was 19 of 30 for 369 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. After struggling in losses to UNC and Miami, Rix has thrown for 964 yards and 10 TDs in the ensuing three wins.

Dantzler had 336 total yards and ran for two touchdowns. Clemson (5-3) can help itself become bowl eligible with a win this week at Maryland as well as help Papa Bobby into sole possession of the top spot in the ACC if the homestanding Noles can avoid an upset bid from N.C. State.

N.C. STATE

The competitive gaps in the ACC don’t get any bigger than playing Duke before facing Florida State, the task that confronts N.C. State this week. The game at Tallahassee is scheduled for regional telecast on ABC and will begin at 3:30 p.m.

State scored more points in the first half against the Blue Devils (49) than it had ever scored in a whole game against Duke in 77 previous meetings. The Wolfpack’s previous high came in a 47-45 win in 1987.

Levar Fisher had a 52-yard fumble return for a touchdown for the Pack and tied the school record for career tackles as his total climbed to 457. State’s Marcus Hudson became the fifth player in ACC history to return an interception 100 yards for a touchdown.

Back-up Pack quarterback Olin Hannum came in for Philip Rivers, who came out after completing 8 of 10 for 116 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. Hannum threw the first scoring pass of his career.

State coach Chuck Amato compared the game to a Florida State matchup with the Blue Devils four years ago in Jacksonville, Fla.

“We scored 45 points in the first half and the second half was like pulling teeth,” Amato said. “Give credit to Duke. (Coach) Carl Franks goes in at halftime and he’s losing 49-7 and his kids come out and outscore us, 24-7.”

WAKE FOREST

The Deacons had lost 17 straight to Virginia. The last time Wake beat the Wahoos was in 1983 when current Cavaliers coach Al Groh was head man for the Deacs.

WFU won 34-30 on Saturday at Scott Stadium as the game hinged on a 64-yard touchdown pass play from James MacPherson to freshman Jason Anderson with 1:42 to go. The play was designed to pick up a first down in a third-and-seven situation but Anderson turned it into the game winner by turning to the inside and turning on his speed.

“We’ve lost some heartbreakers,” said first-year Deacons coach Jim Grobe, a Virginia alum. “It’s really nice to break through and get a win.”

The Deacons have three ACC losses by a total of 17 points.

Fabian Davis returned a punt 62 yards in the fourth quarter for a Wake touchdown at Virginia and set up another score with his 45-yard pass on a reverse. Fred Staton and Nick Burney combined to run for 218 yards and two touchdowns in place of Tarence Williams, who sat out because of an injured ankle.

Next up for Wake (4-4) is a trip to Chapel Hill. On the bright side, the Deacons have five victories over the Tar Heels in the span since that 1983 win over Virginia.

DUKE

Tight end Mike Hart was a bright spot for the Blue Devils with 10 catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns although Duke’s losing streak was extended to 21 games.

“This team never gives up whether we’re down 49 or down two,” Hart said. “We’re going to fight as hard as we can to get back into it. ... We need to kick ourselves in the pants and get on top early. We can’t get ourselves in a hole like we have in the past I don’t know how many games.”

The Blue Devils have an open date before playing at North Carolina on Nov. 17.

“Our guys keep playing and they keep battling,” said Duke coach Carl Franks. “At least they gave the fans something good to go home with. Mike Hart had one of the most courageous games I’ve ever seen. We ran 98 plays and we only took him out a couple of times to catch his breath. But other than that, he was in there.”

Hart has at least one catch in 21 straight games, the duration of the losing streak.

The Blue Devils had their largest home crowd of the season, 35,206, due in large part to State’s volume of fan support.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

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

02/23/2007 01:03:21 AM
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