College Football in the Carolinas
from the East
Monday, December 24, 2001
By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer
Only the Bowl and TV Execs
As diverse as the East Carolina offense prides itself in being it did not
demonstrate an ability to control the ball, run the clock, and protect a
lead this season — factors that were never more evident than when the
Pirates were unable to hold a 30-point advantage in the last 30 minutes of
the GMAC Bowl.
The Pirates showed why they were last in Conference USA in possession
time and pass defense in losing the largest lead ever in a bowl game.
You could stack the negatives as high as the upper deck at Dowdy-Ficklen
Stadium but the fact is ECU probably helped itself in terms of future bowl
desirability. No one from the GMAC Bowl was complaining about the Pirates’
fan support, which was generated amid a slow economy in the span of three
weeks for an underachieving 6-5 team that had lost its last two games.
And ESPN executives will remember ECU as part of a showcase responsible
for a double-overtime 64-61 outcome that easily eclipsed the all-time bowl
record for point production. Excitement. That’s what the television folks
look for and — win or lose — ECU seldom comes up short in that department.
Off-season Brings a Sense of Urgency
Maybe that’s an unfortunate statement on the world of sports we live in
today, but it’s true. Excitement translates into ratings and that’s what
television interests pay attention to.
ECU must wear the disappointment of the loss in the off-season but that
can be a good thing, too. A win might have disguised some deficiencies that
might not have been addressed with the same degree of urgency otherwise.
It’s too bad that a talented, hard-working group of seniors couldn’t have
gone out on a winning note but overall they were part of a significant
period of growth for the Pirates program.
Just a thought, but it wouldn’t be too surprising to see one of those
enterprising kickoff classics match Marshall and ECU to start next season.
Thundering Herd quarterback Byron Leftwich has established his Heisman
candidate credentials and ECU? At the very least, the Pirates’ running game
looks promising — and they will entertain.
N.C. State ran into a Pittsburgh team in the Tangerine Bowl that
continued an upswing from midseason. The Wolfpack’s fan support in Orlando
will be a plus for future bowl consideration.
The season-ending downturn dropped ECU several notches in the State Line
Power Rankings©. You know the poll is tight when three points separated the
Nos. 2 and 6 teams in their head-to-head meeting. Overall records and
performances against teams in the poll were the determining factors.
South Carolina is 8-3 overall, the best record in the Carolinas among
Division I-A teams, and the Gamecocks were 1-0 against other teams in the
poll (Clemson). USC is followed by UNC (7-5, 4-1 vs. poll teams), Clemson
(6-5, 3-2), N.C. State (7-5, 2-2) Wake Forest (6-5, 3-2), ECU (6-6, 0-2) and
Duke (0-11, 0-4).
We’ll plan on doing one more poll after the bowl games are completed.
Here’s the latest:
State Line Power
1. South Carolina ... Gamecocks try for repeat against
Ohio State in the Outback Bowl.
2. North Carolina ... Tar Heels fans are excited about
trip to Atlanta.
3. Clemson ... All aboard for Boise.
4. N.C. State ... Orlando proves a Pitt fall for the
5. Wake Forest ... Winning season but home for the
6. East Carolina ... Mobile collapse epitomized the
Pirates’ puzzling inconsistency.
7. Duke ... The losing streak is at 23 games.
The record was 1-1 for the first round of bowl predictions, bringing the
total for the season to 48-20. Here are the last three picks of the season:
SOUTH CAROLINA vs. OHIO STATE
Tuesday, Jan. 1, 11 a.m.
THE BARE BONES:
As Yogi Berra would say, it’s deja vu all over again for the Gamecocks
and the Buckeyes, who met in the Outback Bowl last season with South
Carolina winning 24-7. The Gamecocks concluded practice in Columbia on
Friday and will resume in Tampa this week.
“We still have some work to do and some things to cover, but all in all,
we’ve had good preparation,” said Gamecocks coach Lou Holtz. “I’ve really
been impressed with the focus and attitude of our players. They are fun to
Last year’s loss to South Carolina precipitated the dismissal of John
Cooper as Ohio State coach. The Buckeyes have the momentum of a 26-20 win
over Michigan under first-year coach Jim Tressel. OSU (7-4) will likely rely
on the running of Jonathan Wells, who ran for 1,257 yards this season and a
5.4 yards per carry average.
The Gamecocks allow an average of 144.2 yards per game rushing, 54th
nationally. More importantly perhaps, South Carolina is allowing just 18.4
points per game, 12th nationally.
NUTS AND BOLTS: Lou Holtz has an 11-8-2 record in bowl games. ...
The Gamecocks must deal with a 44-day layoff between their last game, a
20-15 win over Clemson on Nov. 17. The Buckeyes last game was Nov. 24, at
Michigan. ... South Carolina is ranked No. 14 nationally. ... USC’s all-time
record against the Big Ten is 3-5. ... Buckeyes quarterback Steve Bellisari
was suspended from the team following a DUI charge before a 34-22 loss to
Illinois on Nov. 17. He’s been reinstated but Craig Krenzel is expected to
start in Tampa.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN: The Buckeyes will have to rely on the ground
attack unless Bellisari reappears. OSU wants revenge. The Gamecocks want to
prove last year was no fluke.
PREDICTION: South Carolina 24, Ohio State 21.
NORTH CAROLINA vs. AUBURN
Monday, Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m.
THE BARE BONES:
Tar Heels fans, who haven’t been to a bowl game since 1998, will be
heading to Atlanta en masse. The UNC delegation to the Georgia Dome is
expected to top 20,000. They’ll see an Auburn team that lost three of its
last four. The high point for the Tigers was a 23-20 win over Florida but
that was before tailback Carnell Williams broke his collarbone early in the
Auburn coach Tommy Turbeville has used two quarterbacks, just as his UNC
counterpart, John Bunting, has. Freshman Jason Campbell and senior Daniel
Cobb have each passed for over 1,000 yards for the Tigers. Senior Ronald
Curry and freshman Darian Durant have comparable numbers for the Heels.
“We played hard all year long,” Turbeville said “We made a lot of things
UNC revived its season after an 0-3 start.
“If we don’t win this football game, it really diminishes the real gains
we made,” Bunting said. “... I’m very proud of my staff. They did a
tremendous job holding this team together.”
NUTS AND BOLTS: Auburn is 3-4 against bowl teams while UNC was
4-4. ... UNC is 15th nationally in total defense, allowing just 305.3 yards
per game. ... Although 7-4 overall, Auburn is averaging fewer points scored
(22.2) than allowed (24.1). ... Senior Tigers offensive tackle Kendall
Simmons won the Jacobs Trophy as top blocker in the SEC, which should make
for an interesting matchup against UNC All America defensive end Julius
Peppers. ... Tigers linebacker Dontarrious Thomas led his team with 114
tackles, including nine for loss.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN: Auburn’s late-season search for offense will
continue against a stout UNC defensive unit.
PREDICTION: North Carolina 24, Auburn 22.
CLEMSON vs. LOUISIANA TECH
Monday, Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m.
THE BARE BONES:
It took some long green to get Clemson onto the blue synthetic turf in
Boise where the quarterback matchup should be worth tuning into. Just don’t
try to adjust the color control.
The Bulldogs feature quarterback Luke McCown, who threw for 3,337 yards
and 28 touchdowns during his sophomore season. The Tigers counter with
run/throw threat Woodrow Dantzler, who may even line up some at running
back, according to reports. Louisiana Tech averages 34.7 points and Clemson
averages 29.1, so the scoreboard operator could be busy.
The Bulldogs are 0-3 against bowl teams, including a 48-41 loss at Auburn
in overtime. Clemson was 2-4 against bowl teams, losing the last four.
NUTS AND BOLTS: Clemson kicker Aaron Hunt is 5-for-5 from 40 yards
and beyond. ... The Tigers are making their third straight bowl trip.
Clemson and the ACC committed over $500,000 in ticket commitments and
corporate sponsorship to get the bid. ... Clemson is allowing 28.6 points
per game while Louisiana Tech is allowing 31.0.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN: An offensive show appears likely.
PREDICTION: Clemson 35, Louisiana Tech 28.
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02/23/2007 01:03:44 AM