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View from the East
Monday, November 4, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

November will tell the tale in Conference USA

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As the Conference USA football race heads towards the momentous games of November, no one has been able to break away from the pack and keep a hold of its spot as king of the mountain.

Conference USA Standings

View expanded standings...

 Teams W L
 Texas Christian 4 1
 Southern Miss 3 1
 Louisville 3 1
 UAB 3 1
 East Carolina 2 1
 Tulane 3 2
 Cincinnati 2 2
 Houston 2 3
 Memphis 1 5
 Army 0 6

The coaches’ preseason poll in July listed Louisville first, Southern Miss second, East Carolina third and Texas Christian fourth. Add UAB — the seventh pick — to that list and you have the five teams with just one league loss going into the second week of November.

Louisville has been up and down more than Kobe Bryant on a pogo stick. The Cardinals are seeking a third straight league title but stumbled out of the gate like a weak-legged colt at nearby Churchill Downs.

Louisville lost to rival Kentucky and Colorado State in its first three games, and comments after those non-conference losses about voids on the offensive front were prevalent. Dave Ragone lacked pass protection and the Cards couldn’t run the ball.

Then the Cards put it together on a rainy Thursday night in the bluegrass and knocked off Florida State 26-20 in overtime. It was the type of non-conference win that C-USA coaches talk about as far as bringing credibility to the league.

Then Louisville struggled at Memphis before winning 38-32.

Meanwhile, Southern Miss made a run to the top of the league standings. The Golden Eagles beat Illinois early and then lost out-of-league games to Alabama and South Florida. They won at home over Cincinnati to get to 3-0 in league play going into an ESPN 2 game at TCU last Wednesday night.

The Eagles were poised to take a big step in a return to the C-USA penthouse but they didn’t just lose to the Horned Frogs, they were hammered, 37-7.

TCU, which had lost the first league game of the season on Labor Day at Cincinnati (36-29 in overtime), has recovered to reel off seven straight wins. The Frogs went into Louisville with freshman quarterback Tye Gunn, took a huge lead and smoked the Cards, 45-31.

Gunn hurt a knee against Southern Miss and may be lost for the season, which only adds a little more uncertainty to the league race. TCU (4-1), Southern Miss (3-1), Louisville (3-1), UAB (2-1) and East Carolina (2-1) remain in the thick of the hunt for the league title and that coveted 3:30 p.m. kickoff on Dec. 31 in the Liberty Bowl.

“I think that’s indicative of what’s really taken place in this league, almost from its inception,” said ECU coach Steve Logan. “From top to bottom there’s just not a lot of difference. There’s two or three teams that find themselves each year in a rebuild mode and they kind of have a hard time making a run at it.

“Really, there’s anywhere from six to seven teams each year that can rise up and be a very significant player in a conference race. That’s kind of a result of most of the schools in this conference developing players as opposed to going out and signing finished products.

“It depends on how fast or how slow those guys are going to develop and you never know. You might all of a sudden end up with an NFL guy that nobody thought was going to be an NFL player. So that’s what kind of happens inside the league.”

Heading for Houston

The Pirates return to league play following an open date with a 3 p.m. start on Saturday at Houston (WITN-TV 7). After an 0-11 season in 2001, the Cougars are showing considerably more life lately.

Interestingly, third-year Houston coach Dana Dimel played defensive tackle for Hutchinson Junior College in Kansas when Logan was head coach there.

The Cougars are 4-4 overall and 2-3 in C-USA after a 26-21 win over Memphis on Saturday as Joffrey Reynolds ran for 122 yards and Nick Eddy threw for two scores.

“They’ve got a great recruiting area down there,” Logan said of Houston. “The University of Houston is a good job from the standpoint that they have great tradition and stuff like that, but here again, they’re running into some dynamics down there. Number one, their fan base has really eroded. I’ve said this a million times, I don’t know how you have football with no fans.

“Eventually somebody has got to buy a ticket. I think they’re dealing with some things like that.”

The Cougars averaged 15,244 fans for their four home C-USA games last season. There were 14,221 for ECU’s 19-3 win in 1999. That was the announced crowd but there didn’t appear to be that many actual fans in the seats.

“Dana was asked to come in an literally clean up a program,” Logan said. “He has done that. He’s got a much better caliber of person on the team now and he’s starting to reap some benefits now in his third year. He’s gone through some real tough times and they’re a better football team than they were three years ago.”

The last meeting between ECU and Houston was a 62-20 Pirates win in Greenville in 2000. But the Cougars will no doubt look at ECU’s 2-5 overall record and figure they have a shot at victory this week.

“We’ve got to get on the plane and find a way to play the football game,” Logan said. “We’ve got our own set of problems. Everybody needs to win every game so. He (Dimel) is doing a good job but we need to find a way to get a victory.”

Carolinas

The dream of a perfect season for N.C. State came to an end on Saturday with a 24-17 loss to an inspired Georgia Tech team. North Carolina has looked terribly inept in its last five halves of football, getting outscored 127-13 in that span. That performance has dropped the Tar Heels into the basement of this week’s poll.

Now, on to the Carolinas pecking order:


STATE LINE POWER RANKINGS©
  1. N.C. State ... Wolfpack still on top despite first loss of season to Georgia Tech.
  2. Clemson ... Freshman quarterback Charlie Whitehurst leads a Tigers rally at Duke.
  3. South Carolina ... Gamecocks lose for the tenth straight time to Tennessee.
  4. Wake Forest ... Deacons can’t hold two touchdown leads against Florida State.
  5. East Carolina ... Idle Pirates the only Division I-A team in North Carolina not to lose.
  6. Duke ... Blue Devils let opportunity for upset slip away against Clemson.
  7. North Carolina ... Tar Heels have been struggling mightily since second half at Virginia.
SNAPSHOTS AROUND THE CAROLINAS

N.C. STATE (9-1, 4-1 ACC)

State managed just 57 yards rushing and had three turnovers in a 24-17 loss to Georgia Tech. The Pack was also 4 of 13 on third down conversions and 0 for 2 on fourth down. State's hopes for a BCS bowl berth hinge on this week’s noon game on Saturday at Maryland.

CLEMSON (5-4, 3-3 ACC)

The Tigers overcame a 24-10 deficit at Duke in the last 10 minutes as freshman Charlie Whitehurst completed 34 of 52 passes for a whopping 420 yards. Whitehurst threw for four touchdowns, including three in the last 10:14. The Tigers visit UNC at noon on Saturday.

SOUTH CAROLINA (5-4, 3-3 SEC)

Coming off an open date, the Gamecocks trailed 12-10 when Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen drove the Volunteers on a 17-play drive that pushed the lead to its final 18-10 margin. Next up for Coach Lou Holtz’s club is a home date with Arkansas on Saturday.

WAKE FOREST (5-5, 3-4 ACC)

The Deacons jumped out to leads of 14-0 and 21-7 over Florida State but a combination of FSU quarterback Adrian McPherson and Wake’s mistakes helped the Seminoles to a 34-21 win. The Deacons have two weeks off before hosting Navy on Nov. 23.

EAST CAROLINA (2-5, 2-1 C-USA)

The Pirates may get senior outside linebacker John Williamson back this week. They’ve had an open date since their 44-20 loss at Louisville and will try to get back on track at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Houston.

DUKE (2-8, 0-6 ACC)

The Blue Devils were poised to snap their ACC losing streak before Clemson came back with 24 points in the fourth quarter. That extended the league loss skein to 23 games. Duke has an open date before playing at Georgia Tech on Nov. 16.

NORTH CAROLINA (2-7, 0-5 ACC)

Maryland handed the Tar Heels a 59-7 loss on Saturday for UNC’s biggest losing margin ever in Chapel Hill. The Terps totaled 588 yards of offense as UNC fell to 0-5 at home this season going into a noon home game with Clemson on Saturday.
 

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02/23/2007 12:59:05 AM
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