What a difference a win makes.
It had been 285 days between victories for East Carolina before the
Pirates topped Tulane 24-20 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday night.
Since a 28-26 football win at Cincinnati last Nov. 10, there had been
five Conference USA wins by the men’s basketball team, a league championship
by the baseball team, the hiring of a new women’s basketball coach, the
hiring of a new baseball coach and the opening of the $13 million Murphy
It had been a quite a while, but the dry spell ended on a damp night with
ECU getting a 1-0 start in league play against an improved Green Wave team.
The great thing that an opening win does in league play is that it allows
the program to focus ahead on the prospect of contending for a league
championship. That’s especially important considering some of the negative
situations that have served as distractions on the program’s periphery in
recent weeks and months.
Pirates fans felt justifiably encouraged about the improvement the team
showed over the course of its first three games and that attitude creates a
feeling of optimism about the remainder of the 2002 season.
The Pirates banished the turnovers that had plagued them in the first two
games, making none, zip, zero, nada. Any way you express it, that was a huge
victory in itself. If the Pirates don’t beat themselves, that’s a big part
of the battle.
“This whole football team is still a work in progress,” said ECU coach
Steve Logan. “We’re not really there yet in any one phase quite honestly. We
gave up a big punt return. We had a punt blocked last week and that’s the
first punt we’ve had blocked in three years. Those type of things are still
cropping up, although from game one to two to three, we’re starting to
create a little definition.
“Our defense is still growing and we’ll see what they become.”
Sophomore quarterback Paul Troth didn’t have a great game against the
Wave — 8 for 18 for 92 yards — but with a productive running game it really
didn’t matter. For the first start in three games, Troth didn’t throw an
interception. Logan had said before preseason practice that an effective
ground game and good defense could allow Troth time to develop. That’s what
took place on Saturday night.
“Winning is just a cure-all for just about everything,” Logan said. “It
gives you a chance to think more clearly, you play a little bit better. You
get after it and take the coaching a little bit better. It’s quite an
elixir. It works wonders.”
The Pirates will focus on Army, their next league foe at home on Oct. 5,
during three days of practice this week. Then they’ll turn their attention
to West Virginia, their road foe on Sept. 28 after an open date.
The Mountaineers also have an open date after a narrow win at Cincinnati
on Saturday night. Logan said the Mountaineers are using a spread offense
under second-year coach Rich Rodriguez.
ECU will be without center Doug White for several weeks due to an MCL
injury. Hagen Mason has been in the playing rotation as White’s back-up but
true freshmen Gary Freeman and David Jorgensen may play a reserve role in
the offensive line rotation with White out.
ECU has never won in Morgantown, WV. Logan cited the Big East venues
where the Pirates have won and those include Miami, Syracuse, Virginia Tech,
Pitt and Temple.
Now, for a look at the updated pecking order in the Carolinas and brief
thumbnails on each of the six teams, who along with ECU, make the State Line
Power Rankings© an adventure from week to week.
STATE LINE POWER RANKINGS©
- N.C. State ... Big plays send Wolfpack to first ACC win.
- Clemson ... Tigers hold off Georgia Tech for 1-0 ACC start.
- ECU ... Potential came into focus on Saturday night.
- South Carolina ... Close loss to Georgia starts SEC play.
- North Carolina ... Mack has Texas in national picture.
- Wake Forest ... Deacons hindered by poor kicking game.
- Duke ... Wet win over Pirates was an aberration.
SNAPSHOTS FROM AROUND THE CAROLINAS
N.C. STATE (4-0, 1-0 ACC)
Philip Rivers threw for 223 yards in a 32-13 win in Raleigh over Wake
Forest. State has outscored opponents 165-46 and became the first team in
nine games to beat the Deacons by more than seven points. A blocked field
goal attempt and a fumble return helped swing the outcome for the Wolfpack,
which visits Texas Tech on Saturday.
CLEMSON (2-1, 1-0 ACC)
The Tigers had an assortment of offensive stars in building a 24-6 lead
before holding on for a 24-19 win over visiting Georgia Tech. Willie Simmons
threw for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Derrick Hamilton had a 77-yard
scoring run and Yusef Kelly added 89 yards rushing for the Tigers, who host
Ball State on Saturday.
SOUTH CAROLINA (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
David Pollack of Georgia receovered a fumble at the Bulldogs’ goal line
in the second quarter and was credited with an interception in the end zone
for a touchdown in a 13-7 win at South Carolina. The Gamecocks lost two in a
row for the first time since going 0-11 in 1999. Temple visits USC on
NORTH CAROLINA (1-2)
Mack Brown downplayed his return to Chapel Hill as coach of Texas but his
team gave him a resounding 52-21 win before a crowd of 60,500, the second
largest in Kenan Stadium history. The Tar Heels drew within 31-21 before
Texas pulled away. UNC has an open date before hosting Georgia Tech in its
ACC opener on Sept. 28.
WAKE FOREST (1-2, 0-1 ACC)
Wake gave freshman quarterback Corey Randolph some playing time and its
kicking game continued to struggle. The Deacs missed a 44-yard field goal,
had a 36-yarder blocked and also missed an extra point. Wake visits Purdue
Northwestern drove 97 yards early in the fourth quarter to top the
visiting Blue Devils 26-21 after trailing 14-3 and 21-13. Alex Wade ran for
134 yards in the loss and Adam Smith passed for 188. Duke opens ACC play at
Florida State on Saturday.