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College Football in the Carolinas
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View from the East
Monday, December 3, 2001

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Pirates' Bowl Streak Tops in Carolinas;
Deacs, Clemson Home for the Holidays

©2001 Bonesville.net

It’s an interesting time of the year in college football. Bowl matchups are taking shape and head coaching vacancies — none projected in the Carolinas — are a source of rampant speculation.

Six out of the seven Division I-A teams in the Carolinas earned bowl eligibility and four of those will be making postseason trips.

South Carolina is waiting to learn its destination, possibly the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 to play Michigan. N.C. State nabbed a Tangerine Bowl berth opposite Pittsburgh on Dec. 20. North Carolina accepted an offer from the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31 in Atlanta to play a Southeastern Conference team and East Carolina is headed to Mobile, Ala. to meet Marshall in the GMAC Bowl on Dec. 19.

ECU can thank — in addition to Alabama for beating Southern Miss — it's supportive fan base for making a postseason excursion a reality for the third straight year. No other program in the Carolinas has been bowling three years in a row.

Wake Forest and Clemson are bowl eligible but appear to be home for the holidays. Duke finished 0-11, as predicted, but Coach Carl Franks will be given more time to work on the rebuilding job.

Here’s how the State Line Power Rankings© shake out going into the bowl season:

State Line Power Rankings© [120301]

1. South Carolina ... 8-3 represents some nice work by Lou Holtz.

2. N.C. State ... Beat out Clemson for ACC’s last available bowl slot.

3. Wake Forest ... 4-1 against in-state teams but no place to go.

4. East Carolina ... Pirates know their way around Mobile.

5. North Carolina ... A 19-10 win over SMU was just Peachy.

6. Clemson ... Saved the last Dantz for Duke.

7. Duke ... Losing streak at 23.

Looking at the teams individually:

EAST CAROLINA

Not since 1963, ’64, and ’65 have the Pirates been to three consecutive bowl games. That was in the era of Coach Clarence Stasavich when the offense was the single wing.

The Pirates beat Northeastern 27-6 in the Eastern Bowl in Allentown, Pa. in 1963. They edged Massachusetts 14-13 in the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando in 1964 and blasted Maine 31-0 in a return to the Tangerine in 1965.

Of course, the Pirates were a small college team back then. ECU was deserving of making a third straight bowl trip in 1996 but sat at home with an 8-3 record that included wins over Miami, South Carolina and N.C. State.

“It was heartbreaking,” said Pirates coach Steve Logan. “But I knew this day was coming when we’d be 6-5 and go to a bowl. They say those things even out and in this case they did. It’s a tribute to our fans and a compliment to Conference USA. We’re part of the system now. Back then, we weren’t.”

It will also be a great opportunity for Logan and staff to develop some of the younger players with extra practice time prior to the bowl. That’s a big plus for a program that must replace David Garrard at quarterback, Leonard Henry at running back and Pernell Griffin at inside linebacker.

The seniors are intent on going out as winners. Winning is something they’ve done 29 times over the last four years. In the days following a 28-21 loss to Southern Miss, they weren’t sure that opportunity would be available.

“Not knowing was really frustrating, but at least we got a break from practice” said Griffin, C-USA’s career tackling leader, with a laugh of the days between the loss to the Golden Eagles and the visit of GMAC bowl official Murray Cape to Greenville to extend the bid last Friday.

“We heard rumors about this and that,” said Henry, who led C-USA in rushing this season with 1,432 yards. “We were hoping and praying that we would get a second opportunity.”

Garrard, ECU’s career passing leader, said team members weren’t thrilled with the trip to Mobile in 1999, but this year will be different.

“We were 9-2 that year and thought we should have been in a bigger bowl,” Garrard said. “But we definitely want to be there this time — just to play another team. The seniors didn’t want their careers to end up with the game last Friday. We actually want to go there now.”

Henry said the Pirates know their way around the Gulf Coast town.

“We know the atmosphere of the city,” he said. “We know where to go and where not to go. That’s a little advantage and we know when it’s time to concentrate on the football game.”

Former LSU basketball coach Dale Brown, NFL Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka and Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will be appearing during bowl week. Mobile, which originated the Mardi Gras celebration that subsequently became associated with New Orleans, also will have a Mardi Gras parade in conjunction with the bowl game.

Marshall displayed an ECU trait in its 41-36 loss to Toledo for the MAC title on Friday night. As the Pirates have done lately, the Thundering Herd built a 23-0 lead only to see it dwindle.

The Herd (10-2) features quarterback Byron Leftwich, the MAC offensive player of the year and linebacker Max Yates, the MAC defensive player of the year.

Marshall will likely take a large number of fans. ECU needs to do the same — to cheer for the team, to help with the expense of the bowl trip and to keep the program attractive to bowl scouts and future recruits.

The last time ECU played Marshall was in 1978 and a linebacker named Mike Hamrick played for the Herd. ECU won, 45-0 at Ficklen Stadium.

“ECU had guys like Leander Green, Eddie Hicks, Anthony Collins and Theodore Sutton,” Hamrick said. “All of those guys ran 4.2s (seconds for 40 yards). I ran a 6.2.”

The series, which ECU leads 4-1, was marred by a terrible tragedy following ECU’s 17-14 win in 1970. One of the Marshall planes crashed on the return trip in West Virginia killing numerous players and coaches.

Hamrick said funds have been donated to recognize the Marshall team of 1970 with a display in ECU’s new strength and conditioning facility, which is expected to open next month after some construction delays.

ECU begins bowl workouts on Dec. 6 and will travel to Mobile on Dec. 14.

SOUTH CAROLINA

The Gamecocks returned to the practice field on Friday with underclassmen working out for two hours in a fundamentals-oriented sessions similar to spring practice.

“We wanted to work with our younger players and really begin to gear them for next season,” said Coach Lou Holtz, who planned a similar practice for Sunday.

Holtz probably won’t have to worry about replacing tailback Derek Watson immediately. There has been speculation that Watson would forego his senior season to go to the NFL.

“I fully expect Derek to return,” Holtz said.

Watson said the same thing.

“There are a lot of things I need to improve upon and I’ve pretty much decided I’m coming back for my senior year,” he said.

But there may be some departures from the coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong interviewed last week for the Vanderbilt job and Kansas is also interested in him.

Lou’s son, Skip, USC’s offensive coordinator, is a candidate for the SMU job. Gamecocks running backs coach Buddy Pough has also drawn interest as a head coaching possibility, according to Lou.

The full squad will assemble to begin focusing on bowl preparation next Sunday at noon.

Linebacker Jeremiah Garrison has a pulled hamstring. Reserve quarterback Dondrial Perkins has cuts and bruises from a motorcycle mishap over the Thanksgiving holidays, and Holtz is still not sure about the availability of star linebacker Kalimba Edwards, who sprained a knee against Florida.

Holtz said USC’s success is translating on the national level in recruiting.

N.C. STATE

The Wolfpack expected the worst — to be left out of the bowl scene — but the Tangerine committee voted State ahead of Clemson on Sunday afternoon.

“This is a great opportunity for our players, our fans and for everyone associated with North Carolina State University,” said Pack coach Chuck Amato. “Our team is very excited about having the chance to complete what has been a great season at a great bowl.”

State (7-4) will play Pittsburgh, which became bowl eligible at 6-5 with a 24-6 win over visiting UAB on Saturday.

WAKE FOREST

It’s easier for the Deacons to make a case for being the mythical state champions than it was to catch the interest of a bowl committee. Wake had wins over East Carolina, Appalachian State, Duke and North Carolina. Its only in-state loss was to N.C. State, 17-14.

State pride aside, Jim Grobe proved to be a solid hire and provides some optimism among Deacons followers for 2002 — which is a contrast. There has been precious little reason for Wake fans to look forward to football season over the years.

Guard Michael Collins became Wake’s first All ACC first team selection on offense since 1992.

NORTH CAROLINA

Give the Tar Heels credit for regrouping from an 0-3 start under first-year head coach John Bunting and finishing 7-5 with a trip on tap to the Peach Bowl.

“We were 0-3 and we always felt like we could win the next one,” said senior quarterback Ronald Curry. “The guys stuck together and good things happened.”

UNC will be making its first bowl trip since 1998.

“We’re very proud of this football team and I’m very proud of my staff,” Bunting said. “They did a tremendous job of holding this football together for a long, long time.

"... We tried to make this team better by playing a tough schedule and by making a lot of demands on them in spring ball. We’re really proud of the efforts of Jeff Connors (strength coach) and his staff.

“... We’re very proud to be going to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.”

CLEMSON

After a 59-31 win over Duke on Saturday, in which Clemson quarterback Woodrow Dantzler accounted for five touchdowns and became the first player in the NCAA to run for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 in a season, the Tigers were an even or better shot at getting the Tangerine Bowl berth that State landed.

“Clemson has shown a great history of traveling, as far as bowl participation is concerned,” said Tigers coach Tommy Bowden after his team improved to 6-5. “It shows you how times have changed, when you are bowl eligible and you are sitting there fighting. It used to be, a few years ago, that if you were bowl eligible, you could pretty much pick where you wanted to go.”

DUKE

Carl Franks is 3-30 in three years as coach at his alma mater. The 23-game losing streak is the longest in the nation currently among Division I-A teams and is tied with Northern Illinois for seventh longest of all-time. That’s a heckuva thing to have hanging over you during spring practice.

Duke actually led the Tigers 7-0 . A 69-yard pass from D. Bryant to Ben Erdeljac set up a 9-yard scoring toss to Khary Sharpe. But Clemson scored 31 points in the next 15 minutes and the suspense was gone.

Bryant and running back Chris Douglas return. Tight end Mike Hart, who missed the Clemson game following ankle surgery, closed his career with catches in 22 straight games and recognition on the All ACC first team.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

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

02/23/2007 01:03:33 AM
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