Pirate Homecoming primer
Homecoming is a lot of things and usually it includes a football victory
against a targeted weak sister of an opponent.
That may not be the case at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium at 2 p.m. on Saturday
as the South Florida-East Carolina game is rated a virtual toss-up, but
history will certainly be on the Pirates’ side.
East Carolina has won 13 straight homecoming games and most of those have
been by decisive margins. A 14-10 win over Virginia Tech in 1989 started the
string. There was a narrow 31-28 victory over Louisiana Tech in 1993 but the
average winning margin over the 13-game streak has been 19.8 points. The
most one-sided outcome in the span is a 52-7 rout of Tulane in 1999.
The Pirates played probably their most complete game of the 2001 season
in defeating Memphis 32-11 at last year’s Homecoming.
ECU’s only Homecoming losses since 1970 have been to Miami (Fla.) by a
27-15 score in 1985 and a 30-10 loss to West Virginia in 1988. The Pirates
have won 29 of their last 31 Homecoming games and are 40-7 all-time on that
All of ECU’s 13 straight Homecoming wins have been in October except for
a 34-16 win over Arkansas State on Nov. 2, 1996.
South Florida, at 4-2 with a 16-13 win over Southern Miss, isn’t the
typical Homecoming patsy. The Bulls were 8-3 last season with a 35-26 win at
South Florida has been much more effective at home in its brief history.
Now in their sixth season, the Bulls are 7-17 on the road and 32-5 at home.
“I’m sure they’re coming in here with a chip on their shoulder about
that,” said ECU quarterback Paul Troth. “Nobody wants to be scheduled for
Homecoming. That’s kind of a slap in the face. I know we didn’t purposely do
that. It’s just a matter of the seasons changing and the right time for
“With South Florida, you just have to come in and buckle your chin strap
hard and be ready to play because in watching their game against Oklahoma,
they came to play. I’m sure Southern Miss had their hands full and it showed
in a loss because their guys are physical in each ball game that I’ve seen.
I think the more physical team is probably going to win the ball game.”
Speaking of physical...
ECU coach Steve Logan referred to scrimmages in full pads between the
first offense and first defense the week before a 59-24 win over Army as a
“run down the Ho Chi Minh trail” and said workouts during the two weeks
before the South Florida game would be “Viet Nam all over again.”
The Pirates had another round of physical practices last week on Tuesday
and Thursday. Then they got a respite over the weekend before another round
of grueling sessions on Monday and Tuesday while the general student
populace was on fall break.
What did the ECU players do with their weekend off?
“I pretty much slept and I got rested up,” said defensive lineman Damane
Duckett, whose home is near Winston-Salem. “I didn’t go home last weekend
because it was bad weather here (in Greenville) and back home.”
And Duckett watched some football.
“Every time I watched a football game I felt like I was grading the other
teams, their performance and stuff,” he said. “I’m analyzing every football
game I’m looking at. I’m a big defensive guy and I mostly look at the teams’
defenses. I feel like the drills we do, some of the other teams should do,
too, as far as shooting their hand and stuff because that’s a big key in our
“Shooting our hands and running towards the ball helps you get to a lot
of plays. If you stop running towards the ball, you never know if you could
have made that play.”
Troth watched some football, too, with offensive lineman Charlie Dempsey
and some friends at Professor O’Cool’s in Greenville.
“I felt like I had whiplash from watching the games,” Troth said. “I saw
State and Carolina, Florida State and Miami and some of Oklahoma and Texas.
It’s kind of frustrating to me now because I don’t watch a game like I used
to. I don’t watch the ball. I watch the secondary and I watch the play of
each quarterback. Is he making the right reads? is he making the right
calls? Is he carrying out his fakes well? You always compare yourself to
Troth also checked out Louisville-Memphis on Tuesday night during ECU’s
“It was an advantage to me to see Louisville’s defense, and to see
probably the best quarterback (Dave Ragone) in the league play,” he said.
Where were you in ’72?
I had the opportunity to play golf with several former ECU football
players who were members of the 1972 Southern Conference champions. Our
group included linebacker Jim Post, center Jimmy Creech and receiver Tim
Those former Pirates will be among four ECU teams that will return for
Homecoming this weekend who will be recognized on the 30th anniversary of
their league titles. The men’s basketball team and the golf team and
wrestling teams from ECU all won Southern Conference titles that year.
Football coach Sonny Randle had the reputation of being just slightly on
the sane side of maniacal but he occasionally had a soft spot in his heart,
“We went from 110 players down to 56 by the last preseason scrimmage,”
recalled Post, a member of the defensive unit which was known as the Wild
After that last scrimmage, the coaches ordered the players to the
“We thought they were trying to kill us but we weren’t going to die,”
Post said. “We ran to the practice field and started doing calisthenics.
Then this dump truck appeared from the baseball field and dumped a load of
watermelons. ... Best watermelon I ever had.”
Instead of fans chanting “Purple” and “Gold” from opposite sides of the
stadium, Pirate partisans of that era would yell “Wild” and “Dogs.” The
Pirates’ 4-4 defense featured linebackers including Post, Danny Kepley,
Butch Strawderman and Billy Hibbs who backed a line that included Kirk Doll,
now an assistant at LSU.
Through six games, Post said the defense allowed an average of just 8.4
inches a rush.
“Then the offense kicked in with (running back) Carlester Crumpler,” Post
said. “The offense led the nation in total plays, which meant the defense
was doing its job because we were getting off the field.”