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College Football in the Carolinas
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View from the East
Thursday, November 22, 2001

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Post-season Hopes Hang in the Balance

©2001 Bonesville.net

We’re in the short rows of the 2001 college football season and how short those rows will be depends in some cases on the remaining games.

In East Carolina’s case, the Pirates need a win over long-time nemesis Southern Miss to be assured of a berth to the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Alabama on Dec. 19. Lose and the Pirates could be sitting at home during the holidays with a 6-5 record.

N.C. State can’t afford to stumble against Ohio in terms of its postseason aspirations while Wake Forest is playing for a winning season and bowl eligibility when it hosts Northern Illinois.

That’s the extent of the schedule this week, although Clemson and North Carolina each play for bowl eligibility next week.

Last week’s 4-1 record put the ledger for the season at 43-18. Let’s take a look at the games this week:


SOUTHERN MISS at EAST CAROLINA
Friday, Nov. 23, 11 a.m.

THE BARE BONES:

There are a couple of factors about this matchup that aren’t too reassuring. The first is the series trend in Greenville. Southern Miss leads the overall series, 19-7, but has really been dominant on the Pirates’ home field, where the Golden Eagles have won 11 out of 13 games. ECU’s wins have been in 1976 (48-0) and 1994 (31-10).

The last time the Eagles came to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, ECU spurted out to a 15-0 lead before quarterback Jeff Kelly, running back Derrick Nix and safety Leo Barnes helped rally Southern Miss for a 39-22 victory. That spurred USM to the league title and a trip to the Liberty Bowl.

Barnes, whose late interception for a touchdown sealed the outcome, has thankfully completed his eligibility. Nix, who ran with sledgehammer authority, is sitting out this season as he recovers from a kidney disorder. But Kelly, who utilized the talents of since-departed receivers Sherrod Gideon and Todd Pinkston so effectively in 1999, is still around.

And therein lies another problematic factor. Kelly aired it out for a school-record 400 yards in USM’s 59-6 thrashing of Tulane last week. He’ll be facing an ECU defense that ranks last in C-USA in pass defense, allowing 270.4 yards per game.

“We’ve had some injuries to cornerbacks, Kelly Hardy and Charlie Robinson, that have hurt us this year,” said Pirates junior strong safety Anthony Adams. “We’ve been hurt with some underneath stuff and also with the deep ball. Hopefully we can play better this week.”

More reassuring than the previously mentioned factors is that ECU is 7-2 under Coach Steve Logan in its final home game of the season.

Bowing out at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium will be several players who are among the best ever to don the purple and gold.

Quarterback David Garrard is ECU’s career passing leader. Inside linebacker Pernell Griffin is C-USA’s career tackling leader and running back Leonard Henry is the league’s leading rusher.

There are four senior starters on defense, including tackle Ty Hunt, and five senior starters on offense.

“I can get a little teary just thinking about it,” Hunt said. “I’ve played football since the second grade and this may be the last season I strap it up if I don’t play in the NFL. Whatever the Lord’s will is. He may end this chapter and let me start another one.”

Logan said players regroup quicker than anyone else after a disappointing loss such as the Louisville game. The Pirates seemed to be over the disappointment of the 39-34 loss to the Cardinals and refocused on the task at hand against Southern Miss.

“It was tough,” Hunt said of the loss to the Cardinals that cost the Pirates a berth in the Liberty Bowl. “We were right there, but we just couldn’t grab it. If we had lost by 30 points it would still hurt, but we would know they were clearly better.”

This is also supposed to be the last game for public address announcer John Moore, who developed the well-known “First down ... Pirates,” call. Moore is scheduled to be recognized at halftime.

Hopefully, Moore’s last game won’t be the last one of the 2001 season for the Pirates.

NUTS AND BOLTS:

Southern Miss leads C-USA in scoring defense, allowing an average of 15.4 points per game, while ECU leads the league in scoring offense at 33.9 points per game. ... The Golden Eagles are a plus-4 on the season in turnover margin while ECU is a minus-5. ... The Pirates top C-USA in rushing yards per game at 212.2 while USM is last at 89.8. ... Southern Miss is allowing just 83.0 yards rushing per game defensively. The Golden Eagles are also first in the league in pass defense efficiency. ... Southern Miss is the least-penalized team in C-USA at 48 yards per game. ... Eagles defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix is the youngest coordinator in Division I-A at 28 year of age. ... USM’s LeRoy Handy is averaging 5.5 catches per game and 14.4 yards per catch. ... ECU remains one of only nine Division I-A teams averaging over 200 yards per game in both rushing and passing. ... ECU can assure its fourth straight winning season, a feat the Pirates haven’t accomplished since the Pat Dye era (1974-79).

WHAT WILL HAPPEN:

The Pirates have to overcome a home field jinx against the Golden Eagles and play better pass defense. ECU’s seniors deserve to go out winners in front of their home fans.

PREDICTION: East Carolina 21, Southern Miss 20


OHIO at N.C. STATE
Saturday, Nov. 24, 1 p.m.

THE BARE BONES:

N.C. State has experienced the extremes of late-game scenarios the last two weeks.

The Wolfpack survived Florida State’s last two passes to the end zone in the final seconds two weeks ago in Tallahassee to hang on for a 34-28 upset of the Seminoles, but the 'Pack wasn’t as fortunate last week as Maryland won 23-19 in Raleigh on an 8-yard pass from Shaun Hill to Guilian Gary with 41 seconds to go.

“We participated in two classics within an eight-day period,” said NCSU coach Chuck Amato. “We won one and we lost one. The one we won came down to three seconds and they didn’t catch a pass. The one that we lost came down to the last 41 seconds and they did catch a pass. That’s just the way it is. Every Saturday there’s a 50 percent failure rate in college football.

“I don’t care how good you play, one team is going to win and one is going to lose.”

The team that is going to lose in this one is probably the 1-9 Bobcats, who have dropped five in a row.

This game was originally scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 13 but was postponed following terrorist attacks. State (6-4) could use a good offensive performance to impress bowl scouts.

NUTS AND BOLTS:

The Bobcats rely heavily on their running game out of a pro I formation. They’re averaging 250.8 yards per game, fifth nationally. In contrast, Ohio is last among Division I-A teams in passing at 76.7 yards per game. ... Ohio’s Dave Zastudil is second nationally at 45.6 yards per punt. ... NCSU’s Philip Rivers has more passing yards (5,419) and passing touchdowns (40) through his sophomore season than any player in ACC history. ... State linebacker Levar Fisher is averaging 13.1 tackles per game, second in the ACC.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN:

State’s rushing defense, which is allowing an average of 142.9 yards per game will be tested but Rivers’ passing should be a decisive factor.

PREDICTION: N.C. State 38, Ohio 14.


NORTHERN ILLINOIS at WAKE FOREST
Saturday, Nov. 24, 1 p.m.

THE BARE BONES:

A winning season would be a huge accomplishment for a Deacons program that has done it just once since 1992 and was 2-9 last year.

“We didn’t really establish a lot of goals at the start of the year,” said first-year Wake coach Jim Grobe. “Our goal really was to play the best we could each week and hopefully improve each week. Starting out I thought we had some talent but we weren’t a very good football team, so our goal by the end of the year was to be a good football team and I think we’ve developed into a pretty good football team. As coach you would just like to see your best game played at the end of the season.”

Wake improved its scoring margin from 2000 against every team in the ACC this season, the biggest jump was 41 points against Clemson, a team that crushed Wake 55-7 last year but prevailed just 21-14 this year. Eight of Wake’s 10 games this season have been decided by seven points or less.

The Deacons were supposed to host the Huskies, who are 6-4 with a four-game winning streak, on Sept. 15. Northern Illinois is 1-3 on the road this season while Wake is 1-4 with four straight losses at Groves Stadium.

NUTS AND BOLTS:

Northern Illinois tailback Thomas Hammock is averaging 101.6 yards rushing per game. NIU senior quarterback Chris Finlen has 6,350 career passing yards and 39 touchdowns. His favorite target has been junior split end P.J. Fleck, who has 723 yards on 57 catches this season. Huskies kicker Steve Azar leads the nation with an average of 2.0 field goals per game. ... This is the first meeting between the teams and the Deacons’ first game against a MAC club although Grobe was 2-0 against the Huskies when he coached at Ohio. ... Wake trails Maryland by 0.1 yard for the league lead in rushing; the Deacons are averaging 220.6 yards on the ground per game.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN:

Wake should be a little stronger on their fronts and that should be enough to decide a close game.

PREDICTION: Wake Forest 24, Northern Illinois 20.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

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

02/23/2007 01:03:29 AM
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