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College Sports in the Carolinas

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View from the East
Tuesday, November 18, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Pirates not alone in disappointment

©2003 Bonesville.net

N.C. State had national championship aspirations and was pushing senior quarterback Philip Rivers for the Heisman Trophy as the season got underway. It now seems safe to say that 2003 has been more sizzle than steak for the majority of the Division I-A teams in the Carolinas.

Only Clemson has any sort of momentum going at the present as the Tigers have made a neat recovery since getting riddled 45-17 at Wake Forest earlier this month. For everyone else, disappointment has been the dominant theme.

The Wolfpack has been agonizingly-close in double-overtime losses at Ohio State and Florida State. Those two games show that State can play with anybody. But the Pack has shown an inconsistent side against lesser competition, getting tripped up at Wake Forest and Georgia Tech.

Injuries to running back T.A. McLendon have been a factor that have kept the Pack from being at its best. Rivers really is a Heisman caliber player but how many Heisman winners have been on teams with as many as four losses? State will be in a bowl but it won’t be that BCS slot that they appeared capable of achieving.

Still, it says something about the State program that they have dared to be great. First, you conceive it then you achieve it as they say.

Getting everyone in and around the program thinking in terms of being a national power is indeed a step forward. Facilities have been greatly enhanced and Coach Chuck Amato knows the gaps the Pack has to bridge to cross over to the land of national prominence.

ECU fans can be thankful they’ll play NCSU in Charlotte next year — after Rivers has graduated and presumably moved on to the NFL.

Rivers’ back-up has been about as busy as a Maytag repair man.

North Carolina wanted to revamp its defense and bounce back from last year’s 3-9 record. The Heels have had all the bounce of a lead balloon in that area. UNC’s defense is last in the ACC, allowing 512.5 yards per game. The Tar Heels are last in rushing defense, yielding 224.5 yards per game, and eighth in pass defense, giving up 288 yards per game.

Scoring defense? Last, at 39.0 points per game.

It’s a credit to UNC career yardage leader Darian Durant that the 2-9 Heels have been able to stay close in as many games as they have. The losses to Syracuse and Arizona State could have easily gone the other way.

Duke wasn’t just disappointed after a 42-0 loss at homecoming to Wake Forest. They canned coach Carl Franks the next day. Ted Roof, the defensive coordinator, made an impact as the Blue Devils ended their ACC losing streak with a stunning 41-17 win over Georgia Tech. But they looked like the old Duke in a 40-7 loss at Clemson last week.

Everything appeared to be going reasonably well for Wake Forest until the Deacons self-destructed at Kenan Stadium. The Deacons had over 500 yards in total offense but gave up 20 points on turnovers and lost to UNC 42-34 the week after dominating Clemson. Wake was flat last week and paid the price in a 51-17 loss to Connecticut. After blowing two chances to become bowl eligible, the Deacons now have to beat Maryland after an open date to get that sixth win.

Bowl eligibility has eluded South Carolina for two seasons. Leading 16-7 at the half at home last Saturday against Florida, the Gamecocks fell victim to a rally led by Gators freshman quarterback Chris Leak from Charlotte. South Carolina is winless the last eight times it has played to become bowl eligible.

South Carolina hosts state rival Clemson at 7 p.m. on Saturday on ESPN2.

The Tigers are the exception to the disappointment theme, having silenced the critics of Coach Tommy Bowden with a 26-10 win over Florida State and following that up by rolling over Duke. The Tigers are 7-4 overall and finished 5-3 in the ACC, the only team other than State with a winning record among I-A programs in the Carolinas.

East Carolina went 4-8 last season and made a coaching change. The Pirates are 1-9 going into Saturday’s game at Tulane. The encouraging thing about ECU’s situation is that the team is playing hard and had one of its best efforts of the season in its last game, a 38-37 double-overtime loss to South Florida. Marvin Townes and Vonta Leach each ran for over 100 yards and freshman quarterback James Pinkney was effective in his first start.

Quick notes

ECU receiver/returner Damarcus Fox was apparently shot at a fast food restaurant in Greenville around 3:30 a.m. on Sunday. He was treated for a surface wound and released and has apparently been at practice since the incident. It may not have been the wrong place but it was definitely the wrong time for an athlete to be out. ... Left a call on the answering service of Gerald Austin, C-USA’s coordinator of football officials, about his review of South Florida’s “catch” in the second overtime of the ECU game. He hasn’t called back. ... Texas Christian’s drop from sixth to eighth in the BCS standings illustrates the fickle nature of college football ratings, especially in regard to teams from non-BCS conferences, and flaws in the BCS system in general. ... Tulane running back Mewelde Moore is not expected to play against ECU on Saturday because of a broken hand.

Carolinas football pecking order

Here’s how the Division I-A football programs in the Carolinas stack up through games of Nov. 15:


STATELINE POWER RANKINGS©

  1. N.C. State (7-4, 4-3 ACC) ... Pack must rebound from agonizing loss at FSU at home against Maryland.

  2. Clemson (7-4, 5-3 ACC) ... Tigers wore purple jerseys in leaving Duke blue.

  3. South Carolina (5-6, 2-6 SEC) ... Gamecocks can’t hold on against Gators.

  4. Wake Forest (5-6, 3-4 ACC) ... Deacons look downtrodden in loss to Connecticut.

  5. North Carolina (2-9, 1-6 ACC) ... Tar Heels overwhelmed in fourth quarter at Georgia Tech.

  6. Duke (3-8, 1-6 ACC) ... Devils no match for Tigers, finish season in Chapel Hill.

  7. East Carolina (1-9, 1-5 C-USA) ... Pirates try to make it five straight against Tulane.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

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02/23/2007 12:41:20 AM
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