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College Football in the Carolinas
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View from the East
Monday, November 12, 2001

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Carolinas Pecking Order Upended;
Wolfpack and ECU Emerge — for Now

©2001 Bonesville.net

After three static weeks in the State Line Power Rankings, several stunning outcomes have given the poll a good shaking up.

East Carolina coach Steve Logan reminded us last week of something former NFL coach Bill Parcells said:

“Your record is what you are.”

Three Division I-A teams in the Carolinas have just three losses and N.C. State has the biggest win to date of any of those teams, a 34-28 win over Florida State at Tallahassee on Saturday. Based largely on that triumph, the crown jewel in the Wolfpack’s current three-game winning streak, State has vaulted to No. 1 this week.

ECU has maintained its focus on the Conference USA race and is the only I-A team in the Carolinas in realistic contention for a league championship. The nation will be watching on ESPN as the Pirates host Louisville in a C-USA showdown on Thursday night.

Wake Forest’s stunning rally for a 32-31 win at North Carolina, South Carolina’s 54-17 pounding from visiting Florida, and Maryland’s first win in nine meetings with Clemson, 37-20, have impacted the pecking order in the Carolinas — at least for this week — in a profound fashion.

Alas, Duke is the only team that wasn’t involved in the musical chairs.

Here's a look at the updated State Line Power Rankings© — let’s include last week’s rankings in parentheses to illustrate the magnitude of the upheaval:

State Line Power Rankings© [111201]

1. N.C. State ... You’ve got to be real good to win at Doak Campbell Stadium and the Wolfpack proved they are.

2. East Carolina ... Barely winning is still winning and the Pirates still control their destiny in C-USA.

3. South Carolina ... Gamecocks were transformed into Gator bait.

4. Wake Forest ... Jim Grobe has shown he can coach and that Jim Caldwell left some talent to work with.

5. North Carolina ... A U-turn in victory lane.

6. Clemson ... An average team unless Woodrow Dantzler has a breakout game.

7. Duke ... Those freshmen and sophomores will be big boys one day. (7)

Switching gears and looking at the football programs individually:

EAST CAROLINA

Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium will be the site of the biggest football game in Conference USA this season, but who has the payback motivation working for them? ECU won 28-25 last season at Louisville but the Cardinals recovered to win the league championship, a title the Pirates are steadfastly seeking this season.

“Now it comes down to what we’ve been working for this past year,” Louisville coach John L. Smith told the hometown Courier-Journal after a 34-10 win over Houston moved the Cardinals to 9-1 overall and 5-0 in the league. “We’ll show up,” stated Pirates coach Steve Logan, who may be trying to deflate the hype.

ECU’s last Thursday night home game was a haven for special teams miscues and big plays by Virginia Tech before the Pirates gathered some respect in the second half of a 45-28 loss.

“It was tough to prepare for this game, but I think we were pretty disciplined to go out and take care of business,” said Louisville’s Anthony Floyd, who had a 52-yard punt return for a touchdown against Houston. “Everybody on this team was aware of East Carolina. We kind of looked at this game as something we had to get through to set up a game that we really want to play.”

Louisville was a 28-13 winner at Cincinnati two weeks ago. The Pirates led the Bearcats 28-3 in the first half before enduring a second half reminiscent of last week’s struggle at TCU.

For the second straight week, the Pirates defense managed to knock a more beatable, less mobile quarterback out of the game. Casey Printers stepped up in Fort Worth with some gaudy passing numbers. True freshman George Murray stepped up in Cincinnati for injured classmate Gino Guidugli and showed great relish for the quarterback draw.

Another missed possession on an onside kick a la TCU gave Cincinnati a chance to win with a 52-yard field goal attempt by Jonathan Ruffin, last year’s Lou Groza Award winner. His boot was short and made ECU bowl eligible with its 6-3 overall record.

Like the Cards, the Pirates are 5-0 in the league.

“Whatever it takes,” has emerged as ECU’s motto.

It took 234 rushing yards and three touchdowns from Leonard Henry for ECU to subdue Cincinnati for the 12th time in the 14-game series. Pirates quarterback David Garrard, who contributed 159 yards passing to ECU’s 464 yards of total offense, is confident Henry will be in top form on Thursday night.

N.C. STATE

Chuck Amato’s alto voice was even higher as he was choked up with emotion following State’s stunning 34-28 win at Florida State on Saturday. Seminoles freshman quarterback Chris Rix threw incomplete in the end zone the last two plays and Amato, formerly FSU’s defensive coordinator, had a major upset over his former boss Bobby Bowden.

“I’m still undefeated in homecoming games in this stadium,” Amato said.

Good point, although the first 18 wins came when Amato was on the FSU sideline. Bowden lost for the first time in 26 homecoming games.

“Chuck knew us like a book and knew how to take advantage of us,” Bowden said. “He knew how to confuse us. They had us so off balance.”

State’s Ray Robinson ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Pack quarterback Philip Rivers completed 26 of 33 passes for 245 yards as State had 463 yards of total offense.

State had 26 first downs and controlled the clock for 34:58 as FSU’s winning streak against ACC foes at home ended at 39 games.

State can’t win the ACC but can be instrumental in determining if the Noles will extend their string of nine league titles. The Wolfpack, now bowl eligible, hosts Maryland on Saturday — the Terps can secure the league title with a win in Raleigh.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, Coach Lou Holtz was looking at a rather lengthy list of injuries after the Florida game. Quarterback Phil Petty, who hurt a shoulder, and running back Derek Watson, who sustained a hip pointer, left the game on the same play — an interception return for a touchdown by Florida’s Travis Carroll.

Big-time USC linebacker Kalimba Edwards sprained a knee and didn’t play in the second half. What really hurts is that USC is scheduled to host state rival Clemson on Saturday.

“We felt we had to play conservatively to keep them off the field as much as we could,” Holtz said. "It was 17-10 and we missed a field goal. Then it all fell apart. I can’t tell you why. ...

“We are really beat up. I feel terrible for all the fans that showed up with all the excitement. We just got beat by a far superior team. Give them credit.”

WAKE FOREST

The Deacons were in a 24-0 hole at halftime in Chapel Hill on Saturday. The Tar Heels were talking about a shutout, reporters were talking to Peach Bowl representatives about UNC’s postseason prospects, and Wake coach Jim Grobe was challenging his team to play for pride.

Of all the conversations, Grobe’s had the most substance. The Deacons followed a win at Virginia from a 10-point deficit by regrouping for a 32-31 win at Chapel Hill and their second straight victory at Kenan Stadium.

John Stone scored on an end around to void the shutout talk and Fabian Davis dived into the end zone on a similar play for another touchdown. The Deacons subsequently used the end around fake on a short scoring run up the middle by Tarence Williams, who ran for 101 yards for the game.

A bad snap by Carolina for a safety and Wake was within 31-26 with 4:49 left. A defensive stop, a scoring drive capped by James MacPherson’s one-yard keeper, and the Deacons were on top 32-31 with 1:17 to go.

All Carolina needed for a homecoming win was a field goal but UNC quarterback Darian Durant was stripped of the ball by Wake defensive back Quinton Williams on an all-out blitz with teammate Caron Bracy recovering to seal the miraculous upset with 45 seconds left.

Grobe brought almost all his staff from Ohio when he took the Wake job.

“If we’ve found one thing about these kids, it’s that they don’t quit,” he said.

NORTH CAROLINA

Tar Heels coach John Bunting didn’t expect to be explaining a loss after his team’s first half performance.

“Two weeks ago we played at Clemson and it was one of the most complete games I’ve ever been around in my entire career as a player or coach,” Bunting said. “Today was perhaps the most complete collapse I’ve ever been around.

“It’s disappointing. That’s what I told the team. Give Wake Forest credit for hanging in there for 60 minutes. The inconceivable happened in the second half. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would play like that.”

Ronald Curry, who split time with Durant during UNC’s five-game winning streak, missed the game to attend the funeral of a cousin in Virginia.

UNC can still earn bowl eligibility with wins over Duke and SMU.

CLEMSON

The Tigers had won eight straight in its series with Maryland and 13 of the last 14. But four second-half interceptions by the resurgent Terps led to a 37-20 win and put Coach Ralph Friedgen’s first-year club a win, at N.C. State this week, away from securing a BCS berth.

Clemson trailed 34-6 before putting a measure of respect into the final score.

The Tigers can still beat Duke in a make-up game from the week of Sept. 15 to become bowl eligible if they are unsuccessful at South Carolina this week.

DUKE

Two more likely losses at UNC and Clemson and an 0-11 season will mercifully be over, the losing streak will be at 23 games and Blue Devils coach Carl Franks can continue developing his youthful charges in the offseason.

Don’t laugh but Duke tight end Mike Hart is a legitimate candidate for All ACC.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

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

02/23/2007 01:03:24 AM
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