College Sports in the Carolinas
Don't miss Al Myatt's
profile of ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the 2004
from the East
Monday, October 25, 2004
By Al Myatt
Win over Army not optional for
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 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
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
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
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
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
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."
Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.
Click here to dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville
02/23/2007 12:46:43 AM