I had a Civics class with a high school basketball teammate my senior
year. He was smiling and laughing the day after we lost the district
tournament championship to a team we had beaten twice in the regular season.
I was wondering how he could be so happy and he told me, “If I don’t laugh,
I’ll be crying.”
Maybe East Carolina partisans could use some laughs after a 46-30
homecoming loss to South Florida on Saturday. With that in mind let’s try to
find some good things about the setback that dropped ECU to 2-4 this season.
With apologies to David Letterman and any sensitive Pirates supporters, here
are the top 10 things to consider:
No. 10 — The Pirates were really sandbagging for the Louisville game. No
need for the Cardinals to be pumped like they would be playing a Florida
State this Saturday. Four costly turnovers against South Florida and
Louisville should be about as concerned about ECU as they were for say, TCU.
No. 9 — The outcome was actually healthy. Fans on the north side of
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium would have been subject to prolonged exposure to
ultraviolet rays if they had stayed for four quarters. Many were gone by the
time the Bulls went up 36-17 late in the third, thereby avoiding potentially
dangerous and irritating sunburn.
No. 8 — The loss had health implications for the Pirates players, too.
With a correlation established between physical practices and the win over
Army, midweek workouts might have become too intense had ECU beaten the
Bulls. Outside linebacker John Williamson was already out with a broken arm
sustained in practice before the Army game. Pirates trainer Mike Hanley can
cancel the order for body bags.
No. 7 — No references to Viet Nam by Coach Steve Logan after the Bulls
game. See No. 8.
No. 8 — Who wants to be reminded about a military action we shouldn’t
have been in and weren’t committed to win? O.K., I got a little political.
Back to East Carolina.
No. 6 (a) — Budgetary considerations. The loss leaves ECU in a tough
position to become bowl eligible, but if the athletic department's bean
counters were challenged last year getting ECU to the bowl in Mobile and
back home on the $750,000 payout, imagine what planning for a trip to the
New Orleans Bowl or — gulp — the Hawaii Bowl this year would be like. Nobody
wants to see those cost-cutting measures. ECU doesn’t need to be the first
football team to transport to Hawaiii via a flotilla of Evinrude outboards.
No. 6 (b) — Significant raises for the football staff and bowl bonuses
won't strain the piggy bank.
No. 6 (c) — If Mom and Dad Pirate aren’t blowing up the family budget
going to a bowl game, it will mean more money for Christmas presents for the
kids. The Dole-Bowles debate at ECU on Saturday night reminded us how bad
the region’s economy supposedly is. O.K., I got a little political again.
Well, “Home for the holidays” has a nice ring to it. Any surplus funds in
the family tills can be donated to the Pirate Club.
No. 5 — Earlier hall of fame entry for David Garrard. With the current
team going like it’s going, ECU’s accomplishments under the direction of the
Pirates’ all-time leading passer become more impressive in comparison. It
took 12 years for George Koonce Jr. to get inducted. The span may be shorter
for Garrard. Similar cases could be made for Pernell Griffin and Leonard
No. 4 — Well-rounded athletics program. If Pirates fans aren’t spending
December anticipating a bowl game, Bill Herrion’s basketball program may be
the beneficiary in terms of media and spectator interest.
No. 3 — Football recruiting may improve. The Pirates coaches have had to
juggle time between bowl preparation and recruiting the last three years. A
possible new sales pitch to prospective players may be developing: “Son, we
were 3-9, you can play for us right away.”
No. 2 — Disparity between North Carolina and Florida high school players
confirmed, thus substantiating the argument for spring drills for N.C.'s
prepsters. The Bulls had 91 Florida players on their roster while the
Pirates are dominated by 71 North Carolinians. An ECU win might have led
N.C. State coach Chuck Amato to reconsider his Florida-based recruiting
philosophy. The outcome pointed out what NCHSAA director Charlie Adams could
be doing instead of harping on the Friday night issue — making provisions
for state high schools to conduct full spring practice like they do in the
Sunshine State and other football locales.
And, No. 1 — South Florida is pretty good. As Logan said, “They won at
Pitt last year and you don’t do that with smoke and mirrors.”
Shuffle in the poll
On to the poll where a case was made for college football parity with
N.C. State’s 24-22 win over Duke. Just two points separate the top Division
I-A team in the Carolinas from the bottom team. If the home field advantage
is worth three points, then the case can be made that the Blue Devils were
the better team on Saturday.
Clemson rallied past Wake Forest and moved up to second in this week’s
poll with South Carolina’s demise against LSU. As for the other game
involving a Carolinas team — the one in Charlottesville — North Carolina was
dominating Virginia and then the teams went to the locker rooms at halftime.
STATE LINE POWER RANKINGS©
- N.C. State ... Duke gives the Wolfpack a wake-up call for Thursday
night’s game at Clemson.
- Clemson ... Tigers get it done against the Deacons after trailing
23-14 in the second half.
- South Carolina ... Gamecocks led 14-6 at halftime at LSU before the
Bengals got untracked.
- Wake Forest ... Statistical domination at Clemson was little
consolation for the Deacons.
- East Carolina ... Turnovers wiped out a 31-15 advantage in first downs
over South Florida.
- North Carolina ... Virginia hasn’t lost to the Tar Heels at Scott
Stadium since 1981.
- Duke ... The Devils usually play State tough and usually lose — and
Saturday was no exception.
SNAPSHOTS FROM AROUND THE CAROLINAS
N.C. STATE (8-0, 3-0 ACC)
The director of the Fiesta Bowl, which hosts the national championship
game this season, was in Raleigh to watch the Wolfpack’s survival test. Duke
held running back T.A. McLendon to 50 yards but Philip Rivers completed 26
of 37 for 364 yards for two scores and no interceptions. Rivers ran for
State’s first touchdown en route to a 17-3 lead. The Wolfpack faces a tough
test at Clemson on Thursday at 7:45 p.m.
CLEMSON (4-3, 2-2 ACC)
The Tigers took advantage of Wake Forest turnovers with the Deacons
entertaining the possibility of an upset with a 23-14 lead in the third
quarter. James MacPherson threw three interceptions after 159 passes this
season without a pick. Clemson corner Brian Mance stripped Wake freshman
back Chris Barclay just short of a touchdown in the closing stages to seal
SOUTH CAROLINA (5-3, 3-2 SEC)
Host LSU rallied from a 14-6 deficit at the half to smite the Gamecocks
38-14 and end South Carolina’s four-game winning streak on Saturday night.
Bengals quarterback Marcus Randall made his first start because of an injury
to Matt Mauck and accounted for 91 yards of offense and a rushing touchdown
in LSU’s 25-point third quarter. South Carolina has an open date before
visiting Tennessee at 1 p.m. on Nov. 2.
WAKE FOREST (4-4, 2-3 ACC)
The Deacons rushed for 365 yards, the most since they totaled 355 yards
against William & Mary in 1956 but the Deacons couldn’t hold onto the lead
or the ball in falling to Clemson for the 23rd time in the last 26 games.
Wake hosts North Carolina at noon on Saturday.
EAST CAROLINA (2-4, 2-0 C-USA)
The Pirates may have lost 4-0 in turnover margin and 46-30 on the
scoreboard to South Florida but their circumstances in Conference USA play
actually improved. With Louisville and UAB taking their first league losses,
only ECU and Southern Miss are unbeaten in league play. The Pirates visit
the Cardinals at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
NORTH CAROLINA (2-5, 0-3 ACC)
The Tar Heels became Virginia’s latest second-half victim as the
Cavaliers overcame a 21-0 halftime deficit for a 37-27 win. UNC now faces
the prospect of playing at Wake Forest next week without quarterback Darian
Durant, who is expected to be out for the remainder of the season as a
result of a broken thumb.
DUKE (2-6, 0-4 ACC)
The Blue Devils didn’t go away after falling behind 17-3 to No. 10 (AP
poll) N.C. State in Raleigh. A 65-yard field goal attempt by Brent Garber at
the end would have sealed a stunning upset but it was short and wide. Duke
had more first downs and total yardage and no one considers the Devils an
open date anymore. Duke hosts Maryland at 1 p.m. on Saturday.