College Sports in the Carolinas
from the East
Monday, September 22, 2003
By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News &
League's CEO's touch base on
Shelton at Conference USA meeting
East Carolina interim chancellor Bill Shelton was in Chicago on Sunday for a
board of directors meeting of Conference USA. Shelton said no action was
taken regarding institutions leaving or joining the league.
“We discussed some scenarios but our intent was to be as expeditious as
possible in continuing to be as strong a conference as possible,” Shelton
said. “No decisions were made as far as any members leaving the league or on
any new members joining.”
Louisville and Cincinnati aligning with the Big East football-playing
schools has been widely speculated. There are also reports that C-USA could
lose Marquette and DePaul to the Big East as well as Charlotte and Saint
Louis to the Atlantic 10.
“I acknowledge that there has been a great deal of speculation, but we
have not been formally notified of any changes,” Shelton said.
Prolonged losing can create frustration that tends to obscure the
progress being made by East Carolina’s football team. The Pirates, who lost
34-16 at Wake Forest on Saturday night, are significantly improved from the
group which was overrun 40-3 at Cincinnati just 19 days earlier.
First downs show development under first-year head coach John Thompson.
ECU trailed 24-8 in that statistical category against the Bearcats but led
23-18 at Wake Forest.
Remember, this team consists of a group of players who weren’t recruited
by the present coaching staff. ECU has been faced with players learning
coaches and new systems. The coaching staff has dealt with a mammoth task of
evaluating personnel and trying to get the talent to perform effectively as
units within new schemes.
“East Carolina is a much improved football team,” said Deacons coach Jim
Grobe, who has faced the Pirates at Ohio and Wake, and had seen ECU’s
earlier games via television and tape. “They’re doing some really good
things on both sides of the ball. We played not only a talented football
team tonight, but one that’s gotten much better. They’re much more
comfortable with their schemes right now.
“John Thompson has done a good job. They’re going to win a lot of
football games. We’ve played four real tough football teams right now. That
team we played tonight played their hearts out. It was a shame somebody had
to lose that one because both sides really played with a lot of enthusiasm.”
Coaches such as Ron Zook of Florida, Jeff Bower of Southern Miss and Rich
Rodriguez of West Virginia have been in touch with Thompson to offer their
encouragement during the Pirates tortuous start. Grobe spoke to the ECU team
in the dressing room after the game on Saturday night.
“He told us we were the best 0-3 team that he had ever seen,” said ECU
senior fullback Vonta Leach. “He told us he was impressed that we had come
in and gone after them. He said to keep working and things would turn
A more favorable turnover margin will help the Pirates get things turned
around. ECU had five turnovers with some predictably dire consequences
against Wake while getting just one from the Deacons. The Pirates have 16
turnovers for the season compared to five for their opponents.
“It’s an easy story when you look at it from what we did,” Thompson said.
“We did some good things, but when you turn the ball over and turnovers
equal touchdowns ... you’re not going to win like that.”
Schedule provides a break
The schedule hasn’t helped ECU. The Pirates led off with four games
against teams that all went to bowls last season — Cincinnati, West
Virginia, No. 2 Miami and Wake Forest. It’s probably the toughest opening
schedule since ECU faced N.C. State, West Virginia, Auburn and Penn State in
its first four games in 1986, which happens to be the last time the Pirates
started a season 0-4.
Losing Art Brown, who ran for 1,029 yards last season, was obviously a
Next up is Houston, off to a 3-1 start with a 42-35 win over struggling
Mississippi State on Saturday night. The schedule gives the Pirates a
restful respite and ample time to prepare. ECU had a dramatic 54-48 win over
the Cougars last season with Brown’s 25-yard scoring run in the third
overtime accounting for the winning margin.
“We’re going to take a couple of days off,” Thompson said. “We’ll take
(Sunday) off. We’ll take Monday off. We have a junior varsity game against
Fork Union on Tuesday. ... It’s a time to get better. We’ll take a couple of
days off, and then we have a long week to get ready. We’re going to work.
We’ve got a schedule where we start back on Tuesday practicing and we’ll
take it right up to Houston.
“We’ve got to get better. It’s not a situation where we’re going to just
go in there and drive them and beat them down, but it’s a situation where
we’re going to get better.”
There’s additional time to prepare for North Carolina, which makes its
first trip to Greenville. ECU has 10 more days between the Cougars’ visit
(ESPN 2) and the Tar Heels’ arrival for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff
(WITN-7) on Saturday, Oct. 11. UNC will not have the same luxury of extra
preparation time before playing at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The Tar Heels face
N.C. State in Raleigh this Saturday and return home to face Virginia on Oct.
The schedule may give the Pirates a break in October. It’s about time.
STATELINE POWER RANKINGS©
How the teams in the Carolinas
stack up through games of Sunday, Sept. 21:
1. South Carolina (3-1) ... Gamecocks roll past UAB, 42-10.
2. Clemson (3-1) ... Tigers whip Georgia Tech 39-3 on the road.
3. Wake Forest (3-1) ... Deacons turn ECU turnovers into a 34-16
4. N.C. State (2-2) ... Wolfpack blunts Texas Tech in the red zone.
5. Duke (2-2) ... Devils take a step back with loss to Northwestern.
6. North Carolina (0-3) ... Wisconsin hands Heels a 38-27 setback.
7. East Carolina (0-4) ... Pirates making progress but turnovers
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02/23/2007 12:41:42 AM