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College Sports in the Carolinas
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View from the East
Thursday, November 28, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Unlike Tulane, Pirates won't catch USM flat

©2002 Bonesville.net

Whatever it was that happened to Southern Miss in a 31-10 loss at Tulane last week, you can probably count on the Golden Eagles having it fixed for a 3 p.m. game on Saturday at M.M. Roberts Stadium — also known as The Rock — against East Carolina.

Coach Jeff Bower’s program always seems to play the Pirates tough and holds a 4-1 lead in the series since the old foes began meeting in Conference USA.

“We were unemotional, no enthusiasm, didn’t play hard or with the effort we needed to play with,” said Bower after the loss to the Green Wave — a loss that knocked Southern Miss to 4-3 in C-USA play and likely out of league championship contention.

But Southern Miss, which is already bowl eligible at 6-5, seems to have no trouble getting up for ECU. The Eagles lead the series 20-7.

On the other hand, there is a basis for optimism for the Pirates this week because the road team has fared better over the history of the matchup. ECU is only 2-12 in games in Greenville with USM but is 5-8 in games played in Hattiesburg.

The Golden Eagles can strengthen their bowl prospects while ECU (4-6, 4-2 C-USA) needs a win to stay in contention for postseason eligibility and a share of the league title after a 31-28 upset of then-No. 22 Tesas Christain in Greenville last week.

Pirates coach Steve Logan said the rewards that ECU has to play for have not been discussed with the team.

“There’s just so much ifs, ands, and buts,” Logan said. “Southern Miss speaks for itself. They, in fact, are better than Texas Christian from the standpoint of keeping you out of the end zone. They’ve got a better scoring average on defense.”

Southern Miss leads C-USA in points allowed per game at 16.7 while TCU is averaging 18.7 points allowed. The Horned Frogs are first nationally against the run, allowing just 56.2 yards per game, and are second nationally in total defense at 247.0 yards per game.

“That speaks for itself,” Logan said of the prospect of facing a Southern Miss defense that is also No. 21 nationally in turnover margin at a plus 0.64 per game. “I’m just trying to figure out a way to get a first down.”

The problem for the Golden Eagles, to an extent, has been point production. They are eighth in the 10-team league in scoring average at 22.5 per game.

Southern Miss looks to regroup this week while the Pirates seek to continue the momentum of last week’s win over the Horned Frogs.

“I think East Carolina was a little surprising in the win over TCU,” Bower said. “That was another great example (of turnovers affecting the outcome). TCU turns the ball over seven times. They almost doubled (ECU’s) yardage and dominated the game. But an 81-yard fumble return in the fourth quarter wins it for East Carolina. That’s another great example of, if you don’t take care of the football and protect it and win the turnover margin, it makes it awful tough on you.”

ECU is averaging 30.1 points per game, fourth in C-USA.

“East Carolina can move the ball on offense,” Bower said. “They score a lot of points. They have a good, solid kicking game. They have given up some yards on defense, but they are opportunistic. They created a lot of turnovers last week and took advantage of that.”

One factor in Southern Miss’s success against the Pirates may be that the Golden Eagles consider the Pirates a key rival.

“There have been some tough games,” Bower said. “There have been some interesting plays and comebacks. That’s the great thing about playing somebody year in and year out.

“But when you can do that, and especially now with them being part of the league, it makes the game more interesting and you have an opportunity to develop a tradition. The longer this league goes on, the more you play teams year in and year out.

“I think you’re going to be able to develop rivalries with other schools, such as we have with East Carolina.”

ECU best be prepared to match USM's emotion, especially with the Golden Eagle seniors playing their final home game. If Bower says ECU is a rival, the Pirates best be ready to play like one.

THAT WAS THEN

Southern Miss, or actually Mississippi Southern as it was called at the time, tried to get into the Atlantic Coast Conference at the ACC’s formation in 1953. Following is a United Press International report from Saturday, Sept. 19 of that year:

“HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Mississippi Southern, an overgrown teachers college, went shopping for a bowl bid and membership in either of two major conferences today with the hide of Alabama’s red elephant as its talking point.

“But first a celebration was in order. The football team came home this afternoon from its thundering 25-19 upset of Alabama to a delirious reception.

“It was disclosed officially that Mississippi Southern is trying to get into the new Atlantic Coast Conference.”

The “Southerners,” coached by Thad “Pie” Vann, beat the Parris Island Marines 40-0 after the season-opening win over the Crimson Tide and went on to finish 9-2. They didn’t get into the ACC but they did get invited to the Sun Bowl, losing 37-14 to Texas Western. The 1953 Mississippi Southern season also included a 21-0 homecoming win over Florida State.

QUARTERBACK CONNECTION

Paula Troth, the mother of ECU quarterback Paul Troth, was a high school classmate of Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower. Both graduated from Roswell (Ga.) High in 1971. Roswell won state 3-A championships in football, baseball and basketball in 1971.

Paula later graduated from ECU and married Paul’s dad, Mike, who played football for the Pirates.

Bower played at Georgia before transferring to Southern Miss and playing quarterback. Bower was team captain for Southern Miss (8-3) and MVP in his senior season of 1975 after throwing for 905 yards.

Paul Troth needs just 22 yards passing at Southern Miss for 2,000 yards this season.

THANKSGIVING TIDBITS AND GIBLETS

Logan sent the scout team home for the Thanksgiving holiday on Wednesday, leaving just the traveling squad for workouts in Greenville on Thursday and Friday. The Pirates will leave late Friday afternoon for Hattiesburg.

Recruiting coordinator Terry Tilghman was in charge of travel arrangements and came up with the Blue Parrot as a place to eat after Logan balked at the Holiday Inn in Hattiesburg.

“When Bill Lewis was coach here he left about $3,000 worth of food on the table at the Holiday Inn,” said Logan, who was an assistant at the time. “They brought out some steaks and Bill said, ‘This isn’t fit to eat. Let’s go.’ So he loaded up the bus and we went to Golden Corral. That was 1989.”

Southern Miss won 41-27 that year but Lewis returned in 1991 — Bower’s first season as head coach at Southern Miss — for a 48-20 win at the Golden Eagles’ homecoming.

Southern Miss has already celebrated homecoming this year with a 23-14 win over Cincinnati on Oct. 19, but Saturday against ECU will be “Letterman’s Day.” One letterman the Pirates need to be aware of will be on the field, Southern Miss senior running back Derrick Nix. Before he was beset by a kidney ailment that caused him to miss the latter part of 2000 and all of last season, Nix (6-feet 2, 225 pounds) ran for 171 yards in Greenville in 1999 in a 39-22 win over the Pirates. Nix ran 42 times that game, one shy of the school record.

“He’s still very effective when he’s feeling good,” Logan said of Nix.

The Pirates coach was hopeful that ECU junior nose guard Damane Duckett (6-7, 300), who turned an ankle against TCU, would be available this week against a Golden Eagles offensive front that averages 305 pounds.

“We really need Damane this week,” Logan said.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Click here to dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 12:59:11 AM
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