According to the Sagarin ratings compiled
by MIT graduate Jeff Sagarin and published by USA Today, the home field
advantage is worth three points in college football.
Of course, there are exceptions to every
The Southern Miss-East Carolina
football series is one that defies logic in terms of the benefits of
playing at home. Southern Miss leads the overall series 24-8 but it's
winning percentage in Greenville is even more pronounced.
The Golden Eagles are 14-2 against the
Pirates on the road. Southern Miss has won the last six games played at
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, including a 33-7 conquest in its last visit on
Oct. 1, 2005, in Skip Holtz's first season as head coach at ECU.
"Greg Hudson (Pirates defensive
coordinator) said this is like playing the Yankees," Holtz said.
"They've been the best team in the league the last couple of years
coming in here. I'm sure they're going to be extremely motivated."
ECU won 20-17 in overtime last season
in Hattiesburg as Ben Hartman's 19-yard field goal provided the winning
margin and Travis Williams sealed the outcome with an interception in
the end zone.
That outcome gave the Pirates three
times as many wins on the road in the series as they have at home
against the Golden Eagles.
"We had an opportunity to win last year
down at their place and I'm sure they'll come in fired up and
remembering that," Holtz said.
The teams come in to Saturday's 6 p.m.
kickoff from contrasting emotional experiences. ECU edged regional rival
North Carolina 34-31 on Hartman's game-ending 39-yard field goal.
Southern Miss played a competitive first half at No. 24 Tennessee on
Saturday night before the Volunteers pulled away to a 39-19 win.
ECU will have to avoid a letdown while
Southern Miss will be focused on regrouping and eliminating the mistakes
that negated its opportunity for an upset at Tennessee.
The announcement on Wednesday that the
Southern Miss game was sold out was good news with respect to a fan
survey that was flashed on the video display during the UNC-Chapel Hill
game. Pirate fans were asked what game remaining on the home schedule
they were most excited to see and 90 percent responded N.C. State. Only
six percent said Southern Miss and four percent said Central Florida.
The fans may have the greatest
anticipation of the Wolfpack but at least they won't be staying home for
ECU's Conference USA opener.
One factor that seems to work in the
Golden Eagles' favor in regard to their games in Greenville is that
there is little awe or intimidation generated by the setting. Southern
Miss just played before 106,311 in Knoxville so 43,000 at Dowdy-Ficklen
Stadium may not have the impact that it appears to have on some teams.
ECU's rush defense has been superb so
far and ranks No. 19 nationally among 119 teams in the Football Bowl
Subdivision, formerly Division I-A. The Pirates have allowed an average
of just 56 yards on the ground in two games.
The pass defense has not been nearly as
The Pirates have yielded an average of
294.5 yards per game through the air, which ranks them 103rd. Still,
Holtz thought he saw some progress against North Carolina although Tar
Heels freshman quarterback T.J. Yates completed 20 of 32 for 344 yards
with three touchdowns and one interception.
Holtz said he was concerned going into
last Saturday's game because of how well the Tar Heels executed against
James Madison the previous week.
"We didn't have anybody running scot
free except on the one out and up," Holtz said in comparison to the
Pirates' 17-7 loss at Virginia Tech in which there were several costly
coverage breakdowns. "(Yates) threw some balls down the field for some
deep balls. I'm telling you I think the way they executed the deep
ball throws that he made. They were right there.
"He's got half a step and they dropped
it right in the pocket. There are some things that we're going to have
to look at, we're going to have to improve on and get better."
Yates had scoring passes covering 37,
39 and 51 yards as the ECU secondary was susceptible to the big play.
"The other deep ball, they got us on an
out and up," Holtz said. "They double-moved us and we bit over there on
the corner. Travis (Williams) bit on the corner and they got us but I
think it was as much their execution as anything.
"Now last week (at Virginia Tech), last
week was us. At least we made 'em make the throws this week and he made
'em. I give North Carolina a lot of credit. They did a heckuva job. They
threw some really nice deep balls. We'll look at the film and see where
we are but we've got to get better.
"Whatever we gave up throwing the ball
was too much."
Pirate Club Executive Director Mark
Wharton presented a check for $3,425,000 to ECU Athletic Director Terry
Holland at halftime last Saturday, a record for yearly fund-raising from
the athletic support organization.
The win over the Heels will surely have
a favorable effect on donations to the Pirate Club this year. It has
been documented that levels of giving increase when the football team is
successful. ECU memorabilia sales can be expected to pick up as well.
"We've already seen some direct
enthusiasm coming out of Saturday night," Wharton said. "If we beat
(N.C.) State (Oct. 20), no matter what happens in between, it's going to