College Sports in the Carolinas
Don't miss Al Myatt's
profile of new ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the 2004
from the East
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
By Al Myatt
Wrong kind of streaks on the
line for ECU, UC
ORDER ONLINE NOW!
PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact
INSIDE PIRATE FOOTBALL
Tracking the Classes
NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again
HIGH HOPES FOR HOOPS
New Leader Takes Charge
SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door
KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams
BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate
East Carolina has lost eight straight home games and Cincinnati has lost its
last seven road games. Obviously, someone will celebrate the end of a streak
in the Conference USA opener for both clubs at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium at 7
p.m. on Saturday night.
The Pirates have had an open date to prepare for the Bearcats while
Cincinnati is addressing three turnovers in the red zone in a 19-7 loss at
"Anytime you've got an open date you try to balance a lot of things," said
ECU coach John Thompson.
The first ECU objective was continued improvement. The Pirates practiced
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons as well as Friday morning last
"We're going to be a better football team hopefully," Thompson said.
ECU took the weekend off to allow some players time to heal physically.
Thompson still isn't sure how running back Marvin Townes will respond in a
full speed situation after sustaining a right knee sprain in the Wake Forest
game but the Pirates coach is looking for more production from the ground
"We've got to get our running game going," Thompson said. "We've been
working with a makeshift offensive line but our running backs haven't done
what we know they can do or what they've done before."
Although Townes and Art Brown both have 1,000-yard plus rushing seasons as
Pirates, neither has had a 100-yard effort in ECU's 0-2 start.
Still, Thompson has been generally pleased with the offense coordinated by
Noah Brindise and directed by sophomore quarterback James Pinkney.
"I think our offense has improved game to game and half to half," Thompson
said. "James had some errors in the first half of the Wake Forest game but
once he relaxes and gets in the flow, he can do some good things."
Pinkney indicated this may be the week that ECU snaps its home losing
streak. The Pirates' last home win was a 31-28 stunner against a 22nd-ranked
Texas Christian team on Nov. 23, 2002.
"We're coming along," Pinkney said. "The offensive line is coming along
slowly but surely and this bye week is going to help us out a lot.
Cincinnati is going to be surprised."
It was the Pirates who were surprised last season with a 40-3 loss at
Cincinnati in the season opener on Labor Day. Thompson had worked in the
offseason to stoke excitement in the fan base but lining up against the
Bearcats showed him how much work there was to be done.
"They're a very talented, very physical and a very good football team,"
Thompson said of Cincinnati, which hired Ohio State defensive coordinator
Mark Dantonio after dismissing Rick Minter following a 5-7 season.
UC has nine senior starters on both sides of the ball, including quarterback
Gino Guidugli, whose last trip to Greenville was a tune-up for the Bearcats'
most recent bowl appearance, the 2002 New Orleans Bowl.
Guidugli produced 323 passing yards and four touchdowns in that 42-26 win
over the Pirates, which, incidentally, occurred on Friday night, Dec. 6,
2002 Steve Logan's last game as ECU's head coach.
East Carolina leads the series, which dates back to 1986, 12-4.
Thompson cited Cincinnati defensive end Trent Cole as a player to watch.
"They're very physical and they come at you in a lot of ways," Thompson
said. "They get after you very well with that 4-man front and they do some
different things in their coverages."
ECU obviously has room to improve with its own defense, which is giving up
over 600 yards per game. Thompson indicated it's a matter of fixing
"Everything we did was correctable," said the Pirates coach. "It wasn't
confusion. We simply made mistakes. So much of football is confidence and
experience. Without it, instincts take over. Our instincts took over too
much against Wake Forest and that resulted in mistakes.
"What we've had to do is rep (repeat) things over and over so that when our
instincts take over, we'll be doing things the right way."
Thompson also cited a need for ECU to improve its pass rush from its 4-man
Dantonio expects a challenge.
"Coach Thompson will have his guys ready," Dantonio said. "They fly around.
They have great team speed on defense. ... They've given up a lot of points
but they've played quality opponents. They use a variety of alignments. They
have a good middle linebacker, (Chris) Moore, who makes a lot of plays and a
good defensive end, (Richard) Koonce. ... Offensively, they have good
athletes as well. They look for the big play in that area. Their quarterback
is very athletic and their tailbacks are athletic."
This will be the last time the Pirates play the Bearcats in C-USA.
Cincinnati moves to the Big East next season.
"Syracuse was a Big East statement for us and we didn't quite get it done,"
Dantonio said. "But if we execute and don't beat ourselves, we should be a
competitive football team."
Thompson put several assistants on the road to look at some junior college
players across the country during the bye week as the Pirates continue to
seek some quick solutions to some pressing personnel needs.
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