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College Football in the Carolinas

View from the East
Thursday, November 29, 2001

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Pirates Look to 'Bama for Bowl Boost


You didn't have to wait for Saturday in recent weeks as far as big games impacting the East Carolina football program were concerned.

This week is no different. The Southern Miss-Alabama game at Legion Field in Birmingham tonight (Thursday, Nov. 29) has significant implications for the Pirates.

If the Golden Eagles top ’Bama for the second straight year, the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, AL, on Dec. 19, is poised to present a bid to Coach Jeff Bower’s USM program for the second year in a row. If USM loses, that opens the door for the possibility of a GMAC bid to ECU.

The GMAC likes the potential of ECU-Marshall from the standpoint of featuring quarterbacks David Garrard of the Pirates and Byron Leftwich of the Thundering Herd.

“You have two quarterbacks who are likely first-round draft picks,” said GMAC executive director Bud Ratliff. “That would be a very attractive matchup.”

So the Pirates could sail into Mobile for the second time in three years — this time on a Crimson Tide.

“That would be three consecutive bowls,” said ECU coach Steve Logan. “We’d go and be proud to be there. The benefits are off the field. Recruiting wouldn’t suffer if we don’t go but the opportunity to develop back-ups is valuable. You’re talking about a situation that would allow us to put Paul Troth in some scrimmage situations in December.”

The Pirates could possibly land in the Bowl in Houston for the second straight year if they don’t get to the GMAC. The officials of the Houston event would have to wait on TCU’s Dec. 7 make-up game at Southern Miss to see if the Horned Frogs (5-5) become bowl eligible.

“TCU is three hours away,” said Bowl executive director David Ippoliti. “We’d be crucified if we didn’t wait.”

Ippoliti, whose event has third choice among C-USA team — behind the GMAC, which has second choice, has become used to playing the waiting game.

“We can’t do anything until the GMAC makes its pick,” Ippoliti said. “It’s like the draft. If the player you like gets picked before it’s your turn, you go to your back-up plan.”

The Houston event liked Southern Miss when the GMAC was set to invite ECU last week, but Ippoliti’s back-up plan may bear a strong similarity to his 2000 course of action.

“We’re waiting on the Big 12 side, too,” he said. “I don’t know if Texas A&M would get past the Alamo Bowl selection and I don’t know how they would justify it with the Texas Tech folks if they did take A&M. We could wind up with a rematch between East Carolina and Texas Tech. Who knows?”

Ippoliti said extending a bid to the Pirates would have a degree of reassurance to it having dealt with ECU last year.

“There are a lot of options,” Ippoliti said. “But you don’t have to sell me on East Carolina. We wouldn’t be hesitant to invite them under certain scenarios. There are also scenarios with Cincinnati and there are scenarios with UAB, but we could take ECU and know we’re getting a good football team with star quality.”

Cincinnati is thought to be headed for the Motor City Bowl opposite Toledo on Dec. 29, and UAB’s problem is that it doesn't don’t bring fans.

“All the bowls are scrambling,” Ippoliti said. “And we’re all scrambling after the same thing, more fun and more excitement. There’s just less time to put it together.”

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 backed up the regular season schedule of many teams but the bowl dates have remained the same.

Meanwhile, closer to home there are two games on Saturday with bowl implications for Division I-A teams in the Carolinas. Duke visits Clemson and Southern Methodist is at North Carolina with both the Tigers and the Tar Heels needing wins to become bowl eligible.

Last week’s mark of 2-1 put the season record at 45-19. This week’s games:

Saturday, Dec. 1, 1:30 p.m.


The word is that UNC is headed to the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31 in Atlanta with a victory in the regular season finale, but the Tar Heels should be careful not to take the Mustangs for granted.

SMU coach Mike Cavan has been relieved of his duties, effective at the end of the season, but the Ponies have won four of their last six after an 0-4 start that included a 26-17 loss at home to N.C. State.

“The team can get excited about the departure, or it can get excited and play very hard for their coach, which is the way it appears here with Mike Cavan,” said UNC coach John Bunting. “Their players are playing very hard for him. ... They’re trying very hard to play out the season in a positive way for their coach.”

UNC’s two-quarterback system will encounter an SMU unit that ranks first in the WAC and 22nd nationally in total defense, allowing 314.7 yards per game. Linebacker Vic Viloria leads the team with an average of 10.1 tackles per game.

One upside for the Heels if SMU pulls the upset — Julius Peppers and Ronald Curry are possibly available to help the basketball program at a much earlier date than if the Heels win.


SMU true freshman ShanDerrick Charles has rushed for 783 yards, breaking the school freshman record of 761 yards set by Craig James in 1979. ... SMU is a plus-two in turnover margin in its four wins; a minus-13 in its six losses. ... UNC freshman quarterback Darian Durant is 12th nationally in passing efficiency while senior signal caller Ronald Curry is the school’s all-time passing leader with 4,871 yards. ... The Heels were the first team in ACC history to start 0-3 and win their next five games. ... Junior wide receiver Sam Aiken leads UNC is catches (42), receiving yards (738), and touchdown catches (8). ... UNC won the only previous meeting 28-24 in Dallas in 1984.


Hard to predict what affect a two-week layoff might have on the Heels, who beat Duke 52-17 in their last game, although it was just 24-17 midway the third quarter. UNC may be a 23.5-point favorite, but it looks like it should be closer.


Saturday, Dec. 1, 1 p.m.


Duke is 114th out of 115 Division I-A teams in scoring defense. The Blue Devils are allowing 43.2 points per game, so Clemson’s Woodrow Dantzler, who needs 131 yards to become the first player in NCAA history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards in the same season, would seem to have a suitable opponent against which to earn that distinction.

The bottom line is that the Tigers can punch their postseason ticket with a win. They have the fan base and star power to attract an at-large bid if they don’t get an ACC slot.

This is the first time since 1991 that Clemson hasn’t ended the regular season playing South Carolina.

“I’ve only been here two years so it’s not something that’s been ingrained (finishing with the Gamecocks),” said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden. “It’s a little unusual because now you can recruit. We’ve got official visits coming in this weekend. I’ve got a dinner at my home Saturday night. So you’ve got to combine the two, which is a little unusual.”

The Blue Devils don’t figure to provide any digestive problems. They’ve lost 22 in a row, the longest current losing streak in the nation.

“I think the main reason is that we’re playing a lot of guys who haven’t played before,” said Duke coach Carl Franks. “That’s certainly a factor as well as some guys not being in the right position all the time.”


The Tigers have won 10 straight over Duke at “Death Valley.” ... Duke tailback Chris Douglas is sixth nationally in all-purpose yards with an average of 170.2 per game. He will be the first player to lead Duke in rushing his freshman and sophomore seasons. ... Clemson back Travis Zachery is 10th on the ACC’s all-time scoring list with 276 points.


Duke will struggle to contain Woodrow Dantzler’s explosiveness.

PREDICTION: Clemson 31, Duke 10.

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02/23/2007 01:03:32 AM

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