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View from the East
Monday, December 2, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Motivation of youthful Pirates not a problem

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College football on Saturday on the Division I-A level in the Carolinas was a testimony to inconsistency. In the only two games, Southern Miss beat East Carolina 24-7 and Maryland won 32-14 over Wake Forest.

That was the same Southern Miss team that had lost 31-10 to Tulane the previous week. ECU had beaten the Green Wave 24-20 earlier this season. The Pirates were coming off a 31-28 win over then-No. 22 Texas Christian.

Maryland was a much different team from the one that had been hammered 48-13 seven days earlier by rival Virginia. The Terps scored 24 points in the second quarter against the Demon Deacons and led 27-0 at the half.

Hard to figure, but this much we do know ó the Pirates will be home for the holidays without a share of the Conference USA title, and the Deacons, although bowl eligible at 6-6, have about as much appeal to a bowl selection committee as a case of poison ivy because of their small fan base.

One trend was upheld in Hattiesburg, MS, and that was ECUís historic struggle against the Golden Eagles. Southern Miss improved to 5-1 in the series since the two programs began playing in Conference USA. The Pirates trail 7-21 in the overall series.

Maryland has a similar record of domination in its series with Wake Forest as the Terps lead 37-13-1.

Maybe ECUís history of success against Cincinnati will play into the Piratesí home game at 7 p.m. on Friday (ESPN 2). ECU is 7-0 at home against the Bearcats, who will be playing for a share of the league championship as well as bowl eligibility.

The Pirates lead the overall series, 12-2. Cincinnati coach Rick Minter is 1-5 against ECU, including a 28-26 loss last season at Cincinnati. The Pirates led 28-6 at the half at Cincinnati but then the puzzling inability of the 2001 team to maintain a lead kicked in.

Bearcats freshman quarterback Gino Guidugli was knocked out of last yearís game with a shoulder injury and his back-up, George Murray, led the Cincinnati comeback. Murray scored on an 8-yard touchdown run with 46 seconds left to draw Cincinnati within two points, at 28-26, but ECUís Christshawn Gilliam tackled Bearcats running back DeMarco McCleskey at the sideline on an option play to preserve the win for the Pirates.

The versatile Gilliam was in a different role on Saturday at Southern Miss. The senior linebacker transformed himself into a running back in place of the injured Art Brown, who was out with a severely-strained groin. That apparently is a catch-22 of physical practice sessions for the Pirates.

Outside linebacker John Williamson was a casualty earlier as ECU intensified the physicality of its workouts after the loss at West Virginia. Williamson broke his arm before the Army game.

To be sure, the absence of Brown was a factor in ECUís poor showing offensively at Southern Miss. Taking away a player who is averaging 102.9 yards per game rushing is significant not only in terms of his individual production but in terms of the balance which his presence brings to the unit as well. Brown is a threat to make a big play any time he touches the ball.

The passing game suffers without a running threat that the defense must respect. The Pirates managed just 154 yards of total offense, their lowest output of the season and the least allowed by the Southern Miss defense in 2002. Forced to pass after Southern Miss had taken control on the scoreboard, the Pirates were susceptible to the Golden Eagles blitz package.

The Pirates must regroup to face a Cincinnati defense that is third in C-USA in yards allowed per game at 328.1.

One thing Pirates coach Steve Logan has said about this yearís team is that it hasnít needed external motivation. The youthful composition of this yearís team has produced an enthusiasm that has made the Pirates excited about playing, regardless of the circumstances.

ďItís a very inspirational quality of this yearís team,Ē said Logan. ďIt makes them fun to coach.Ē

Friday night at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium will be mainly about winning a football game for the Pirates ó and just maybe, that will be enough.

Given the inconsistency of college football, however, itís difficult to know what to expect.

Wolfpack leads the way

One thing that is more or less assured is that N.C. State will finish atop the State Line Power Rankings, which shifted slightly with the losses by ECU and Wake Forest. With the Pirates and Deacons stumbling, South Carolina moved up to third. Hereís the poll:


STATE LINE POWER RANKINGS©
  1. N.C. State ... The Wolfpack has accepted a Gator Bowl bid.
  2. Clemson ... Itís the Tangerine Bowl for the Tigers.
  3. South Carolina ... No bowl for the Gamecocks despite a 5-2 start.
  4. Wake Forest ... Deaconsí bowl hopes disappear at Maryland.
  5. East Carolina ... Pirates have their first losing season since 1997.
  6. North Carolina ... Heels experience drop-off in Buntingís second season.
  7. Duke ... The Blue Devils may be poised for a turnaround with loads of returnees.
SNAPSHOTS AROUND THE CAROLINAS

N.C. STATE (10-3, 5-3 ACC)

The Wolfpack got the Gator Bowl bid this past week to the chagrin of Maryland and Virginia. But the Terps got a Peach Bowl berth after beating Wake Forest on Saturday. The Pack is waiting to find out who itís opponent will be in Jacksonville, FL, at 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 1 on NBC. West Virginia (9-3) is willing but bowl officials would love to land Notre Dame (10-2).

CLEMSON (7-5, 4-4 ACC)

The Tigers accepted an invitation to the Dec. 23 Tangerine Bowl at 5:30 p.m. (ESPN) against a Big 12 team to be named this week.

SOUTH CAROLINA (5-7, 3-5 SEC)

USC coach Lou Holtz received a one year contract extension through 2007 on Tuesday from former ECU coach Mike McGee, now athletics director at South Carolina.

WAKE FOREST (6-6, 3-5 ACC)

The Deacons provided a glimpse of the future when freshman Corey Randolph replaced James MacPherson at quarterback and played much of the way at Maryland. Wake coach Jim Grobe is hoping to get his team into a bowl somewhere but it seems unlikely.

EAST CAROLINA (4-7, 4-3 C-USA)

The weekend wasnít a total loss for the Pirates as the basketball team improved to 3-0 with a strong second half for a 66-51 win at home over William & Mary. The football team will be playing for pride at 7 p.m. on Friday night against Cincinnati (ESPN 2).

NORTH CAROLINA (3-9, 1-7 ACC)

The Tar Heels have a lot of issues to address in the offseason, including shoring up the unit guided by defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable, a former ECU assistant.

DUKE (2-10, 0-8 ACC)

The Blue Devils did not have a senior on the field at the end of the season and should be ready to show more improvement in 2003.
 

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02/23/2007 12:57:42 AM
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