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UAB quarterback Darrel Hackney reminds East Carolina coach
Steve Logan of former Pirates quarterback David Garrard.
There are good and bad connotations to such an association.
As Logan sat in his office on Monday afternoon watching tape
of the Blazers’ offense, he saw some of Garrard’s tendencies on the screen
again — bullish scrambles out of the pocket and the ability to wing the ball
40 yards on a line. When Hackney ran into problems was when he held onto the
ball too long, relying on his physical strength to withstand a rush.
He also threw some darts amidst converging defensive backs.
“Just like David,” Logan said. “Trying to pinpoint a laser
through coverage. Have fun Watson (a reference to the UAB coach, Watson
Brown, incidentally, is a former ECU assistant. He served on
Pat Dye’s Pirates staff in 1974 and 1975. His brother is former North
Carolina and current Texas coach, Mack Brown.
The main criticism of Hackney is that he needs to learn the
situations when he should throw the ball away. The UAB offensive line is
also suspect to a degree. They’re generally big but not overwhelmingly
athletic. They didn’t appear to run block or pass protect with a great deal
Saturday’s 3 p.m. game at Legion Field in Birmingham may be
a game that can be decided by superior play by the ECU front seven on
defense, as strange as that may sound.
UAB is not nearly as talented on its own defensive front as
a year ago when defensive lineman Bryan Thomas and linebacker Rod Taylor
were helping the Blazers lead the nation in rushing defense at an average of
just 57.8 yards per game.
This year the Blazers are yielding 156.0 yards per game on
the ground, a number that has been on the decline since Florida rolled up
233 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground in a 51-3 win in UAB’s
Hackney, who wears No. 4 — the same as emerging ECU
quarterback Paul Troth, has completed 109 passes in 212 attempts for 1,331
yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. Hackney moved into the
starting role ahead of senior Thomas Cox earlier this season. Cox was 6-1 as
a starter going into the season, including a 36-17 win over ECU in 1999, a
mystifying game that ECU led 17-3.
Hackney turned an ankle last week in a 20-13 home loss to
Southern Miss but is expected to play against the Pirates. Former ECU sports
information director Norm Reilly also said Hackney, a redshirt freshman from
Atlanta that the Pirates had some interest in, has been nursing sore knees.
UAB led Southern Miss 13-10 in the fourth quarter. UAB’s top
rusher is a true freshman and hometown product, Dan Burks, who is averaging
40.8 yards on the ground per game.
The manner in which ECU came from 17 points down in the
fourth quarter to win a 54-48 triple overtime thriller at Houston on
Saturday gives the Pirates hope of turning the season around. A loss would
have dropped the team to 2-6 overall and out of realistic contention for the
Conference USA championship with two league losses.
““With the level of maturity on this team, we would have
probably taken it really hard if we hadn’t beaten Houston,” said ECU
sophomore quarterback Paul Troth. “We would have had the attitude that we
were better than them but we lost the game. We could have used that excuse
like we had with other teams.
“Our coaches would have helped us out but I really feel like
if we had lost that game the season probably would have gone on a little bit
of a downward spiral from that point because we would have had to win out to
even go to a bowl game. But we didn’t lose, which is exciting.”
ECU improved to 3-1 in C-USA going into the game at UAB,
which is rated a virtual toss-up. The Pirates are tied in the loss column
with Southern Miss and Texas Christian in the league race. The Golden Eagles
face a challenge from Louisville in Hattiesburg, Miss. on Thursday night.
TCU is idle until visiting the Pirates on Nov. 23.
“I’ve never heard a speech as honest as Coach Logan at
halftime of the Houston game,” Troth said. “He wasn’t yelling. He wasn’t
screaming. He just told us that if we lose, our season’s over. If we win,
it’s going to define us the rest of the year.”
Coach Logan has adopted a wait-and-see approach as far as
the effects of the win at Houston are concerned.
“That thing will help, if we do something with it,” Logan
said. “There are ways that you can get confidence and move on with something
like that as far as chemistry. From the (4th quarter) 12-minute mark on in
that game, they had three drives: four and out, seven and out, and a three
and out with a fumble.
“The point being, our defense played their assignments
properly and did what we asked them to do. It has never been an effort issue
with the defense, or the offense. It has been an execution issue."
ECU offensive tackle Brian Rimpf said the win at Houston had
improved the team’s outlook.
“We know we can win on the last play of the game,” Rimpf
said. “We know we can take teams to overtime and come out with a victory.
The last time we were in overtime (64-61 loss to Marshall in 3 OTs in the
2001 GMAC Bowl) we didn’t come out with a victory. Now we know we’ve got the
stamina to go that far and we’ve got the heart to take it to the last play
to win it.”
The league championship remains the goal.
“We control our own destiny and that’s all you can ask for,”
Rimpf said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time but if you look
farther, if we win out, we can be conference champions. That was our goal at
the start of the year. It’s great knowing that you control your own destiny.
You don’t have to watch other teams and their schedule. It’s in your hands.”
Loss for Rios
The postgame celebration at Houston was dampened to a degree
by news that a 92-year old grandfather of sophomore receiver Edwin Rios had
passed away during the game. Rios left the team to be with family but was
expected back for practice on Wednesday. The funeral is Saturday but Rios is
expected to travel with the team.