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Don't miss Al Myatt's profile of ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the 2004 Bonesville Magazine.

View from the East
Monday, October 25, 2004

By Al Myatt

Win over Army not optional for Thompson

Game Center Wrap-up

USM 51, ECU 10:
Complete coverage...

Post-game Interviews:
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Bonesville Magazine

• PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact

• Recruit Profiles
• Rookie Books
• Tracking the Classes
• Florida Pipeline
• NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again


• STEVE BALLARD: 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 was in the wrong place at the wrong time on Saturday night, but there may be bigger consequences than just the 51-10 wipeout at Southern Miss.

You have to wonder what new ECU athletic director Terry Holland must be thinking. He declined comment to reporters following the game, but indicated that he was as interested in hearing what Coach John Thompson had to say in his post-game remarks to the media as they were.

The circumstances were demanding and ECU obviously handled them poorly.

The Pirates became whipping boys for a Golden Eagles team that had waited a week to atone for a costly and disappointing 27-3 loss at Alabama.

USM turned the ball over twice inside its 10-yard line in Tuscaloosa, allowing the Crimson Tide two short and decisive touchdown drives.

That loss killed any chance USM had for the financial rewards and recognition of a Bowl Championship Series berth and it also dropped them out of the Top 25.

The Golden Eagles had a week to brood and they were in the mood to punish the Pirates at their homecoming at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg.

The disappointing aspect of the loss is that the Pirates had an extra week to prepare and build on the confidence of their lone win of the season over Tulane. Thompson should be familiar with USM's schemes and mindset because he spent seven seasons in the program from 1992 to 1998.

But the Pirates looked like sacrificial lambs for 30 minutes and trailed 35-0 at the half.

Southern Miss went most of the way at Alabama without starting quarterback Dustin Almond, and No. 2 QB Damion Carter was so ineffective passing that the Tide was able to bring up its safeties and stuff the Golden Eagles' ground game in the second half.

Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower promised Carter would be better against the Pirates and he was.

The Pirates also ran into another aggressive and athletic defensive front seven that appeared to hold periodic unit meetings on top of ECU quarterback James Pinkney. The youthful ECU offensive line was riddled for seven sacks, exhibiting a degree of ineffectiveness that it had shown in earlier losses to Cincinnati and Louisville.

After a loss like the debacle at Southern Miss, it's certainly better to look forward than to look back. Army won't have any future NFL players like USM linebacker Michael Boley when the Cadets come to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for a 3 p.m. kickoff on Saturday.

But Coach Bobby Ross' first-year Army club will have the momentum of a 2-game winning streak and the potential benefit of an extra week to prepare for the Pirates. ECU is 7-0 all-time against Army.

One positive aspect for the Pirates is that they have been in every game at home. Thompson should realize the disappointment and anguish that has pervaded segments of the fan base with a 1-5 start.

Without an administrator in the chain of command who was involved in his hiring, Thompson also should realize the possible consequences of a poor performance this week. Not only could it damage him severely in terms of whatever evaluations are ongoing with Holland but it could jeopardize the morale of the players going into upcoming road trips to Houston and South Florida.

Judging from the performance at Southern Miss, ECU's season is on the verge of going south and possibly taking its second-year coach with it before he's had a chance to get the job done with his own players.

A poorly-conceived fake punt gave USM a short field for its third touchdown, which essentially put the game out of reach for the floundering Pirates. Thompson took responsibility for the call, having communicated only with punter Ryan Dougherty about the highly-questionable strategy.

With only two wins in 18 games, Thompson can ill afford to be making such longshot calls. Going for that 4th-and-9 against Wake Forest in the fourth quarter would seem to have been a much better bet.

The common thinking is that coaches should be given at least three or four years to show what they can do with their own players but if Thompson doesn't show the improvement he promised from last season's 1-11 record, there's a chance he won't get the benefit of the doubt.

It should be noted that 1-10 would be better, but that's not likely going to be good enough for a lot of fans or the new AD either.

The Pirates need to win one for their coach this week or conditions may propel the dynamics towards a decision that another coaching change is in the best interests of the program.

A win over Army could result in momentum for the remainder of the season. ECU could put together a run with wins over Houston, South Florida and back home against Memphis that would leave the Pirates playing for bowl eligibility in Charlotte on Nov. 27 against N.C. State.

Such a scenario depends on a springboard win against the Cadets, a game that could be pivotal for Thompson's ECU career.

Stas delivered the punch line

The magnitude of ECU's loss Saturday night was exceeded by a 65-0 trouncing at Southern Miss in 1968.

Then-Pirates coach Clarence Stasavich supposedly told his players following that defeat that he would take the blame.

"I take full responsibility," Stasavich told the team.

The legendary coach then paused and added, "because I recruited every one of you."

No joking matter

How bad is the national perception of ECU's once-proud program?

Syndicated columnist Norman Chad reportedly said that the BCS should dump all the computer data in its national rankings.

Chad's reasoning: "On any given day, a computer can have a virus and before you know it, East Carolina is ranked No. 3."


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02/23/2007 12:46:43 AM

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