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College Sports in the Carolinas


View from the East
Friday, October 3, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Diagnosing Pirates tests Thompson


John Thompson came in to face the assembled media in the second floor auditorium of the Ward Sports Medicine Building after Tuesday night’s 27-13 loss to Houston and he wasn’t much different from a mechanic who couldn’t find the problem with a car engine.

For a few moments the salesman in Thompson took a break and he was just an honest first-year head coach whose team had fallen to 0-5 despite his best efforts over the nine-plus months that he has been at East Carolina.

“Well,” he said with a sigh. “This team is plagued with a lot of mistakes. We keep making the same mistakes over and over. We work. We go, but we’re not getting it done. I wish I had an answer for you. We keep trying to find solutions. We’ve just got to focus on getting it done.”

It’s been said that you find out a lot more about people under adverse circumstances than you do when things are going well. Maybe there’s some consolation for ECU fans that Thompson remains determined when things are bad. Programs tend to take on the character of the head coach and Thompson’s attitude in defeat is one worthy of emulation.

He doesn’t rely on excuses. He basically maintains his resolve to keep working until the desired results are achieved. It’s hard not to pull for a guy like that to get things turned around. Maybe he will handle success just as well before too long.

Thompson was asked if he thought the 2003 season would start out the way it has.

“No, not at all,” he said. “But that’s where we are. I’m responsible. I’m responsible for this. We’re going to go to work. That’s what we’re doing right now. You come off the field and you go right to work with what you do in the dressing room — make sure that we stay together and that we keep working and stick to our plan.

“I’m not going to abandon the plan. What I told ’em down there is the same thing I told ’em after Cincinnati. I’m not going to give up. I’m not going to give in and neither are they. We have a lot of work to do with this football program in a lot of ways but I am proud to be here. We will get this thing right. There is no doubt that we’re going to get this thing right.”

The troops, in the larger sense

Among the groups recognized at the Houston game were representatives from military bases in the Carolinas. There was a flyover by jets from Seymour-Johnson Air Force base before kickoff, military personnel received discounted tickets. Interim chancellor William Shelton presented plaques to various military leaders at halftime.

“I thought that was really a nice thing,” Thompson said. “I wasn’t around, wasn’t able to see it. I heard the planes go by. You know, I mean let’s look at the real picture. What all this is about. Thankful for that. Thankful for the crowd. Hopefully they enjoyed it for awhile. I thought that was a big deal.”

Promotions helped ECU draw 33,250 for an winless team on a weeknight. Perhaps the fans, too, will be soon rewarded for their support.

The quarterback choice

Desmond Robinson has made five starts and despite a very good completion percentage, the numbers that have drawn the most attention are his nine interceptions and no touchdown passes. After his second interception on Tuesday night, the Pirates turned to 2002 starter Paul Troth, who struggled to get the offense going.

Troth threw 11 straight incomplete passes before a making a 39-yard connection to Iverick Harris after the outcome was pretty much decided. Losing the starting job and watching the team lose has been tough on Troth.

“The record speaks for itself,” he said. “Everybody is sick of losing. It’s tough. The offense isn’t carrying its weight. The defense is playing better each week and we’re not. We turn the ball over. It starts with us quarterbacks.”

Troth appeared to be trying too hard at times on Tuesday night.

“It seemed like I was a little bit off,” he said. “A little bit to the left or right. I couldn’t ever get in a rhythm. I had an opportunity to step up and help the team win. I didn’t do that so. Comfort-wise, I feel comfortable out there. Frustration-wise, it’s just one of those things where I miss to the left, miss to the right, miss high. I didn’t capture the chance to make a big performance or help the team win.”

Thompson and staff have gotten basically four-plus games to evaluate Robinson. Perhaps Troth will get an extended opportunity to show if he can regain the form that produced 15 touchdown passes and 2,315 yards last season. His downside as a sophomore was 20 interceptions. The offense is different from what he directed last season and three of the top five receivers from last season are not there.

Thompson indicated that the quarterback situation will get another evaluation before the next game against North Carolina in Greenville at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 11. One encouraging aspect offensively against the Cougars was Marvin Townes’ 118 rushing yards on 25 carries. A productive ground game can take some pressure off of the quarterback regardless of who it is.

ECU has had some extra time this week to prepare for UNC. That was the way the schedule was set up in 2001 when the series was renewed in Chapel Hill, but the events of Sept. 11 that year caused the Syracuse game to be rescheduled for the week before the 24-21 loss to the Tar Heels.

“We can use every bit of the extra time,” Thompson said.

Moore to transfer

Men’s basketball forward Jonathan Moore will apparently not play his senior year with the Pirates and will transfer to North Carolina Central. Moore was a non-qualifier as a freshman out of Raleigh Millbrook. He made his debut for ECU with 23 points in a season-opening 79-74 win over Rutgers on Nov. 14, 2001.

Moore went on to average 5.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 16.4 minutes as a sophomore. Moore had seven points and 12 rebounds in ECU’s first-ever Conference USA win over Louisville, 87-77, on Jan. 16, 2002.

His numbers dipped slightly to 4.0 points, 2.9 rebounds and 15.6 minutes last season. Moore would probably have been a back-up this season to Derrick Wiley, ECU’s top scorer last season with a 13.9-point average. The 6-foot-8 Moore won’t have to sit out a season before playing at Division II NCCU.

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02/23/2007 12:41:28 AM

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