Lou good, Hanna bad as GameDay
Maybe the announcement that the West
Virginia-East Carolina game has been sold out will keep a gal named
Hanna from showing up at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for Saturday's 4:30 p.m.
That's wishful thinking and Mother
Nature has a mind all her own but other than threatening weather the
matchup with the Mountaineers has just about everything the Pirates
Last week's dramatic 27-22 win over
Virginia Tech in Charlotte set a grand stage for ECU's first home game.
Lou Holtz, legendary former coach
turned college football television personality, visited with the Pirates
prior to practice on Wednesday. Papa Lou was on hand with an ESPN crew
which was filming a segment on his son, ECU coach Skip Holtz. The clip
will air during the network's GameDay coverage on Saturday.
Other than the chance of high winds and
sideways rain from Hanna, there's not much to dislike
about this game, whether you're an ESPN exec or a guy who will be trying
to get more than face value for tickets in the parking lot.
WVU is No. 8 nationally, which gives
the Pirates another opportunity against a ranked opponent. A win would
almost certainly move ECU into the Top 25 and open up potential BCS bowl
scenarios. Inclusion in such major bowl conversations is something
Pirates have longed for since making a commitment to go big time in
football in the 1970's.
The strength of ECU's schedule at the
outset this season gives the Pirates plenty of time to get into and
ascend in the rankings.
The contest is scheduled to be shown on
ESPN, which means national exposure for the football program and
university — always good things for recruiting and future considerations
by BCS conferences as well as general institutional recognition and
It also helps the economies of the
university and region. Folks at the UBE will tell you that they sell
considerably more ECU merchandise when the football team is winning. Ask
any hotel or restaurant manager in Greenville whether ECU wins help
their business and you might just get an emphatic, "Go Pirates."
Interest in and support for the Pirate
Club is compounded with football success.
A win could mean rewards across the
board for the ECU football community.
But the weather forecasts tend to
temper contemplations of a Cloud Nine Saturday for the Pirates.
"It could potentially be really bad,"
Skip Holtz said. "I hope it's not. I'm really looking forward to coming
home with all the excitement right now and all the Pirate fans. To have
the opportunity to come here — see that student section filling up that
stadium, I think it'll be a great venue and atmosphere.
"If it does rain, we have to play in
it. We got a lot of weather work last week. I think the field will hold
up very well as long as we don't get like eight inches in two hours."
As of Wednesday evening, the game was
to be played as scheduled.
WVU coach Bill Stewart mentioned the
possibility of moving the game to a stadium farther inland earlier in
the week, but expressed his confidence in the athletic administrations
at both schools to work the situation out.
Internal challenges for Pirates
As former Pirate defensive back and
current radio analyst Kevin Monroe said following the win over the
Hokies, "They won't sneak up on West Virginia now."
As WVU coach Stewart stated, "Anybody
that beat Virginia Tech, has our attention."
The last time the Pirates played the
Mountaineers, it was ugly. WVU flexed its muscle and walloped ECU 48-7
last year in Morgantown.
Pirates coach Skip Holtz is hoping his
program can handle the bounce from a euphoric win.
The Pirates gave Virginia Tech chances
last week that the Hokies converted into points. Fortunately, ECU was
still a play away when the game was on the line and T.J. Lee stepped up
to make a decisive play by blocking a punt for a touchdown.
The outcome provides an educational
opportunity for a program on the rise.
"It's not learning how to win that
concerns me as much as learning how to handle winning," Holtz said.
"We're going to have the ultimate challenge of that right now and being
challenged to go play an even better game.
"We have to stay humble and hungry with
where we are right now ... It's going to take a better effort than what
we had last week in order to come out here and be competitive against a
team like West Virginia."
The departure of WVU alumnus and coach
Rich Rodriguez to Michigan has seemingly served as a galvanizing factor
for Mountaineers football. Stewart, who was elevated to head coach on an
interim basis for a bowl game with Oklahoma, was given the job on a
long-term basis after a 48-28 victory over the Sooners.
He's 2-0 after a 48-21 win over
championship subdivision member Villanova last week.
Pat White completed 25 of 33 passes for
the Mountaineers for 208 yards with five touchdowns and one
interception. He also rushed nine times for 63 yards in the season
Stewart said the Mountaineers passed
more than usual in response to what Villanova's defense was giving.
"I'm not smart enough to run against
nine guys in the box," he said.
Holtz said the Mountaineers are good
enough running or throwing to beat you in either phase if you scheme to
take away either facet of their offense. The best defense against WVU is
one that's unpredictable — and guesses well.
Holtz liked the analogy that ECU
defensive coordinator Greg Hudson used in describing the challenge the
Mountaineers offense presents.
"He said trying to contain them is like
herding cats," Holtz said.
Hopefully, the Pirates can let the dogs
out on Saturday — and it won't be raining cats and dogs.