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View from the 'ville
Thursday, September 4, 2008

By Al Myatt

Storm adds twist to momentous game

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Lou good, Hanna bad as GameDay approaches

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. kickoff.

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 could want.

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 growth.

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."

Mountaineers formidable

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 opener.

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.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

09/22/2008 04:11:03 AM


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