CHRONICLING ECU & C-USA SPORTS
from the 'ville
Thursday, October 19, 2006
By Al Myatt
Flat performance begets
Youth and injuries
complicated ECU's challenge in its stinging loss to an exceptional Tulsa
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The Tulsa game was a disappointing and
mystifying performance for an East Carolina team that had done so many
things well in defeating Virginia a week earlier.
With an extra week to prepare for the
Cavaliers, ECU had ratcheted up its running game for a season best 208
yards. Brandon Fractious had stepped in for injured Chris Johnson and run
for 102 yards, the most by a Pirates back this season. Even with star
receiver Aundrae Allison out of commission, the ECU passing game had managed
224 yards against the Cavs.
The 31-21 win over Virginia was supposed to be
a momentum builder for East Carolina going into the thick of the Conference
Time and the opportunity to atone this week
against Southern Methodist will erase the disappointment of the Tulsa
setback. The intent here is to eliminate some of the mystery involved in
ECU's showing in the 31-10 loss to the Hurricane by examining factors that
contributed to the Pirates' most one-sided loss of the season.
Following the Tulsa game, Pirates coach Skip
Holtz admitted he had been concerned about the potential for a flat
performance following the triumph over the Cavaliers.
"I talked to the staff on Monday (Oct. 9)
about my only concern is an emotional letdown because we played five
emotional weeks," Holtz said. "The first game of the year is always the
first game of the year. That's always going to be emotional. The second game
(UAB), we get into conference play.
"The third game (Memphis), you get to come
home. Then you've got two BCS conference schools (West Virginia and
Virginia). That's four and five and you've gone five (games) in a row where
you've had to be on top of your game, where you've had to be at a real
"I was worried about an emotional letdown. I
can't tell you that that's what this one was. I can't tell you that. It
wasn't the same fire but I thought defensively we started the game pretty
salty. We couldn't get that rhythm going on offense. There was always a
breakdown here or there.
"I don't know if there was an emotional
letdown but that was definitely a concern coming into it all. I thought they
played hard. I don't think they went out and laid down. I thought they
played hard. We just made a lot of mistakes."
One characteristic of rebuilding programs can
be inconsistency. ECU didn't look like the team that had battled West
Virginia to a virtual standstill into the fourth quarter or the Pirates that
had taken control of the Virginia game by halftime.
"When you play five weeks of emotional
football, it's hard to get up and play your best every single week,
regardless of who's coming into town," Holtz said. "Was there something to
play for? Certainly."
In ECU's previous three home games, the crowd
was more of a factor than in the Tulsa game. Students were on fall break and
that affected the size and the impact of the Pirates' fan support.
"It was a fantastic crowd considering the
students were on break," said ECU athletic director Terry Holland.
The crowd of 34,011 was the smallest of the
season and it was easily the least enthusiastic.
"We love the fans but it's on us to get
ready," said ECU linebacker Pierre Bell.
"The crowd wasn't as big as it has been,"
Holtz said. "But I was real impressed with the student body that was still
"It was a weird game," said Tulsa coach Steve
Kragthorpe. "There wasn't a lot of rhythm or flow to it. ... We played good
early and took the crowd out of the game a little. ... We just go about our
business whether it's on the road or at home, whether it's an afternoon
game, night game or morning game.
"It's like the U.S. Postal Service. We gotta
ECU quarterback James Pinkney said the 3 p.m.
kickoff may have affected the Pirates. It was ECU's earliest start this
"That wasn't us out there today," Pinkney
said. "It hurts knowing we didn't come to play the conference champs. ... We
didn't get ourselves ready in time to play this game. We've been playing at
6 (p.m.). Playing at 3 (p.m.), I just think some people weren't ready
mentally and physically to go out there and play and that showed."
The Pirates' Homecoming matchup with SMU,
incidentally, also kicks off at 3 p.m.
Another factor that shouldn't be overlooked in
last Saturday's outcome: Tulsa is good. People may just be starting to
realize that with the Golden Hurricane
slotted No. 25 in the first BCS
rankings. ECU was a slight favorite over Tulsa, according to the Las Vegas
lines, but the Golden Hurricane dominated the Pirates to a greater extent
than No. 5 West Virginia.
"Coach Kragthorpe has done a very nice job in
building that program," Holtz said. "They're the best in our conference
right now. That's pretty much proven until somebody knocks them off the top.
"That's going to be difficult for somebody to
do with the running game that they have and the way Paul Smith (Tulsa
quarterback) — the poise that he shows in the pocket and the decisions that
Holtz said the Golden Hurricane was able to
exploit ECU's defensive inexperience.
"Some times when the young guys make mistakes,
the (opposing) offense isn't good enough to expose them," Holtz said. "Tulsa
ECU certainly wasn't at full strength in terms
of personnel. Cornerback Travis Williams was out due to a suspension for
violation of team policy. He returned to practice this week. Star receiver
Aundrae Allison also watched with a high ankle sprain but is expected to be
available against SMU. The bad news is that elite receivers Bobby Good and
Jamar Bryant are out due to injuries.
Injuries are part of the game but
unfortunately for the Pirates, they have been a big part in recent weeks.
"I'd love to have Jamar Bryant," Holtz said.
"I'd love to have (running back) Dominique Lindsay. We can go through this
whole thing. There are a lot of guys I'd love to have out there. I'd love to
have (defensive lineman) Shauntae Hunt healthy. It's frustrating now because
we were young coming in and you lose some of those key players and it puts
even more youth on the field.
"We knew when we played these young players
there would be growing pains. I said at the beginning of the season that we
are more talented than in years past but I don't know that we're a better
football team. We weren't very consistent (against Tulsa)."
Bell had no excuses.
"We just didn't play our game," Bell said. "We
just didn't stick to the game plan. We had too many mistakes, too many
turnovers. Defensively, we just had too many letdowns. It just wasn't our
" ... This isn't a measuring stick. We just
didn't play Pirate-type football. When you don't play Pirate-type football,
you can get beat by anybody."
Hopefully, the Pirates can address the factors
that contributed to the poor showing against Tulane.
"We've got to bounce back," Pinkney said.
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