INSIDE GAME DAY
38, Army 28
Saturday, Oct. 30, 2004
|By Al Myatt
Sunday, Oct. 31, 2004
All is well until next game
GREENVILLE Fans and media who have been waiting for East Carolina to show
signs of a return to football prominence under Coach John Thompson tend to
see the program's status largely through the context of the last game.
Pirates, Black Knights swap fortunes
When it comes to momentum in college
football, both East Carolina and Army can affirm that a week means
all the difference in the world.
The Pirates did not resemble the team
that had been dismantled 51-10 a week earlier at Southern Miss and
Army was unable to maintain the impetus of consecutive wins after an
"I give ECU a lot of credit," said D.J.
Blackledge, who bolted 69 yards for a touchdown on a kickoff return
to draw the Black Knights within 24-21 with 13:46 remaining. "They
executed and we didn't. They made plays down the stretch. That's
what it comes down to."
"We're a young team and with that, we
have to grow," Blackledge said. "We have to handle situations like
the open date.
"We were in position to come down here
and get three in a row and we have to learn how to get the job
ECU was turnover free and Cadets
receiver Aaron Alexander said Army needed to be.
"It's like Coach (Bobby Ross) says, we
need to be darn near perfect and we were too sporadic," said
Alexander, who had eight catches for 69 yards.
The Pirates will prepare for their date
with Houston next Saturday with the intent of putting wins back to
back for the first time in the John Thompson era.
Army must regroup for its home game with
Air Force this week.
After a 51-10 loss to Southern Miss last week, J.T.'s approval rating was
likely at an all-time low. Those who were hoping the program had turned a
corner after a win over Tulane had their hopes dashed with the trip to
But J.T. is OK again in most corners of the Pirate Nation after ECU's 38-28
win over an improved Army team on Saturday.
In a business where coaches are often only as good as their last game, the
second-year Pirates coach has bought himself a week of reduced speculation
about his job status.
One person who is looking at the big picture is new athletic director Terry
Holland. J.T. isn't riding periodic highs and lows like a stock on Wall
Street as far as his new boss is concerned.
"We're not even worried about stuff like that at this time of the year,"
Holland said when asked to comment about his evaluation of the Pirate
football coach. "I'm just trying to tell everybody, 'Hey, our team and
coaches aren't about to quit during the middle of the year. We still have
four games left.'
"We've played very well here at home. We've had a tough time on the road. I
think that's not unusual in today's football world. We're sort of finding
our way and we're getting pretty tough."
Holland declined comment to media following last week's game at Southern
Miss. ECU's performance on Military Appreciation Day was well-appreciated by
the new commander in chief of ECU athletics.
"Our kids played well against obviously a very good football team," said
Holland after the Pirates rolled up 462 yards of offense against the Black
Knights. "We got the breaks today, thank goodness. I expected it to be a
high-scoring game and Army just kept coming back. They just never give up."
Holland isn't ready to give up on scheduling Army either, although the
Cadets exit Conference USA after this season. ECU leads the series 8-0.
"This is a great rivalry for us," said the former Virginia hoops coach and
AD. "We'd like to find some way to continue it. We do have so many military
people in the area. I have a great deal of respect for the military as a
whole and obviously a great deal of respect for the Army team and Coach
(Bobby) Ross and his staff."
Holland sought Ross out in the walkway from the visitors' dressing room to
the field following the game. Ross thanked Holland for a gift the ECU AD had
sent Ross at the Army team hotel.
"Boss" Ross may not have recognized the ECU team at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on
Saturday from tape of the Southern Miss game but he credited the Pirates for
"First of all, you've got to give East Carolina a lot of credit," Ross said.
"I felt like in looking at the film that it was a talented football team.
They've had some things that have gone wrong but Coach Thompson and his
staff you've got to give them credit they held them together and they've
gotten it back.
"They're a very talented football team. They have some nice depth in their
offense. We haven't seen three running backs (Art Brown, Marvin Townes and
Chris Johnson) like that. Their line is big up front. The thing that did
surprise me was the ability of their receivers. They caught the ball very
well. I knew (James) Pinkney would throw the ball well."
ECU's running back rotation had 163 yards on 40 carries while Pinkney was 26
of 36 for 285 yards and no interceptions. The Pirates were turnover free.
Key to happiness: keep it going
ECU needs to maintain some of the momentum of the win over Army as the
Pirates head to Houston for a 5 p.m. (EST) game on Saturday.
"You look at these guys who have been beat down and counted out," Thompson
said. "You can't count these guys out. ... This team continues to mature. A
lot of people can learn some things from these guys. They're winners."
Winning at Houston would be a big step. The Cougars will be coming off of a
24-3 win at home over Tulane.
Maintaining momentum may be easier than in the case of ECU's earlier win
which was followed by an open date.
"We've got to (continue momentum)," Thompson said. "We talked about it in
the dressing room right then. Our focus now goes to Houston and we've got to
keep doing that. It can't be just a one-time deal. So let's roll."
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