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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Monday, November 18, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Willpower prevailed in Blazers' winning drive

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Momentum seemed to have shifted in favor of East Carolina when a 31-yard field goal by Kevin Miller with 4:09 left tied the score at 29 at UAB on Saturday.

The Pirates had the Blazers pinned back at their own 11-yard line after the ensuing kickoff. There was plenty of time to get a stop and get the winning points on the board.

The finish in last week’s 54-48 triple overtime win at Houston generated that kind of optimism.

The Pirates may have gotten a bad break before Miller’s second field goal. Art Brown was whistled down on third down short of first down distance, but replays left doubt as to whether Brown’s knee had hit the ground. ECU coach Steve Logan talked with the officials about the play but obviously there is no appeal process in the college system.

Back to UAB’s possession that started at their own 11. The situation looked promising for the Pirates but that was before the defense suddenly gave the appearance that it was still reading the primer on the basics of tackling.

The drive was a testimony to willpower — UAB having the determination to make something happen offensively with the game on the line and the Pirates sadly lacking the ability to match or exceed the opposition’s performance in the clutch.

ECU’s defense slowed the Blazers down just enough to leave the offense a scant minute to get downfield for a possible tying touchdown.

Credit UAB for making plays when it counted. The less said about ECU’s corresponding defensive effort, probably the better, but Blazers quarterback Darrel Hackney made some telling comments after throwing for a career-high 424 yards.

“We knew coming into the game their defensive backs were suspect,” Hackney said. “All week we said we needed to run the ball. Every pass play, we felt like we could score. We knew they would play a soft zone. It was just a matter of us tinkering.”

Certainly the ECU defensive players and coaches will strive for improvement in practice this week.

The Pirates appeared to be pushing the panic button to a degree on offense on their last possession. They had the time, timeouts and apparently the chances to throw 15-yard out patterns and move the ball downfield, especially with UAB retreating into its prevent defense.

But with Desmond Robinson in at quarterback for Paul Troth, who had sustained a slight concussion earlier in the game, the Pirates seemed bent on beating the Blazers deep. Then Robinson threw long into coverage for an interception.

Game over, but not the season. ECU is actually still in contention for a share of the Conference USA championship and a bowl berth.

The Pirates are back home to play nationally-ranked Texas Christian at 2 p.m. on Saturday. An ECU win would give the Horned Frogs their second league loss and the Pirates would be one of as many as five teams with two C-USA setbacks. Win out and ECU can do no worse than tie for the league title and get the six wins required for bowl eligibility.

But there is now no margin for error.

Good day for Pirates from the past

There was better news for some former football Pirates over the weekend. ... Kenny Phillips, a Greenville product who played at ECU in 1982-83, coached Division II Fayetteville State to a 17-14 win over Bowie State in Winston-Salem for the Broncos’ first CIAA championship. Phillips, a former assistant to Mike O’Cain at N.C. State, was credited with bringing a higher degree of morale and discipline to the program in a 10-1 season, the best in school history. ... And you had to be happy for Todd Berry, ECU’s offensive coordinator in the Liberty Bowl championship season of 1995. Army, where Berry is in his third year as head coach, was the only one among 117 Division I-A teams without a win going into Saturday’s games. The Cadets came through to top Tulane 14-10 in New Orleans and snapped a 19-game road losing streak. The outcome also halted an 8-game losing streak for the Black Knights in C-USA play. ... Somebody figured to get a win when the Baltimore Ravens, quarterbacked by Jeff Blake, matched up with the Miami Dolphins, for whom Blake’s coach at ECU, Bill Lewis, is the secondary coach. Lewis and the Dolphins moved atop the AFC East standings with a 26-7 win.

Sad Saturday in the Carolinas

It was not a good week for the Carolinas Division I-A teams as no one won. The only change was that North Carolina slipped out of the cellar with a slight pulse in a 40-14 loss at Florida State. Duke fell to the bottom after its lackluster offensive performance in a 17-2 loss at Georgia Tech. This week’s UNC-Duke matchup in Durham will decide who is the final occupant of the basement for the 2002 season. The rankings, with some comments:


STATE LINE POWER RANKINGS©
  1. N.C. State ... Wolfpack comes up short again in the fourth quarter at Virginia.
  2. Clemson ... Tigers traded field goals for touchdowns with Maryland and lost.
  3. South Carolina ... Gamecocks couldn’t handle Florida quarterback Rex Grossman.
  4. Wake Forest ... Deacons had their second consecutive open date.
  5. East Carolina ... Pirates needed a final defensive stop at UAB and it didn’t happen.
  6. North Carolina ... Tar Heels showed some signs of life in 40-14 loss at Florida State.
  7. Duke ... Blue Devils were scoreless offensively in a 17-2 loss at Georgia Tech.
SNAPSHOTS AROUND THE CAROLINAS

N.C. STATE (9-3, 4-3 ACC)

The Wolfpack was saddled with its third straight loss when a Philip Rivers pass to the end zone on fourth-and-seven at the Virginia 15 was batted down in the closing seconds. That allowed host Virginia to take a 14-9 win. State tries to regroup as Florida State comes into Raleigh on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff. The Pack topped the Seminoles 34-28 last season in Tallahassee.

CLEMSON (6-5, 4-4 ACC)

Maryland may be playing the best football in the ACC right now, a fact supported by a 30-12 Terrapins win at Death Valley on Saturday. The Terps held the Tigers without a touchdown and limited Clemson freshman sensation Charlie Whitehurst to 12 for 26 passing for 130 yards with one interception. It was Clemson’s first home loss to Maryland since 1985. The Tigers are at home at 7:45 on Saturday night to face bitter state rival South Carolina. Bragging rights and possible bowl positioning for the Tigers will be riding on that one.

SOUTH CAROLINA (5-6, 3-5 SEC)

The Gamecocks fell victim to the dwindling Heisman Trophy candidacy of Florida quarterback Rex Grossman, who completed 24 of 36 for 228 yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers in a 28-7 win over visiting USC on Saturday night. South Carolina coach Lou Holtz responded classicly, “If they hadn’t invented the forward pass, we would not be hurting as much.” USC’s Dondrail Pinkins started ahead of Corey Jenkins at quarterback without dramatic results. Wonder who will start at Clemson on Saturday night?

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

The Deacons were the only Division I-A team in the Carolinas that didn’t lose on Saturday. That’s because Wake didn’t play — for the second straight week. The Deacons can become bowl eligible with a win over Navy at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday but would likely need a win at Maryland the following week to have a realistic shot at a bid. The ACC already has six bowl-eligible teams and just five bowl slots.

EAST CAROLINA (3-6, 3-2 C-USA)

The Pirates couldn’t stop UAB on an 89-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes at Legion Field on Saturday and that was the bottom line on a 36-29 loss to the Blazers that hurt ECU’s chances for the Conference USA championship. The Pirates were without sophomore quarterback Paul Troth in the second half due to a slight concussion but Desmond Robinson filled in capably. ECU hosts TCU at 2 p.m. on Saturday and a Pirates win would throw the C-USA standings into a logjam. Such an outcome could leave five teams, including the Horned Frogs, currently the C-USA leaders at 5-1, with two league losses.

NORTH CAROLINA (2-9, 0-7 ACC)

A total annihilation seemed possible at Florida State but it was only a rout. Tar Heels tight end Bobby Blizzard, a transfer from Kentucky who was a high school teammate of Ronald Curry’s in Hampton, Va., caught six passes for 100 yards and a touchdown in UNC’s 40-14 loss on Saturday. After a scoreless first quarter the Seminoles moved to a 17-0 lead in the second period as Adrian McPherson had the first two of his four touchdown passes for the game. The Tar Heels visit Duke at noon on Saturday with both teams trying to avoid a winless season in ACC play.

DUKE (2-9, 0-7 ACC)

The Blue Devils had their ACC losing streak extended to 24 games with a 17-2 loss at Georgia Tech. Duke’s only points came on a safety in the first quarter when a bad snap by the Yellow Jackets went out of the end zone. Duke managed just 284 yards of total offense and had three turnovers. Obviously, the Blue Devils will have to play more effectively on offense to have a chance to end that league losing streak at noon on Saturday against rival Carolina.
 

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02/23/2007 12:59:08 AM
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