Billy Wallace will return to
Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday where he was instrumental in East
Carolina's first football win over N.C. State back in 1971.
Actually, it was just Carter Stadium
back then and ECU had lost there 23-6 the previous season in their first
varsity matchup with the Wolfpack. Wallace, who came to Greenville from
Edenton, recalled that he had a big game for the Pirate freshmen team
when it beat State in 1968.
Wallace had a 57-yard touchdown run in
the fourth quarter and finished with 20 carries for 117 yards in a 31-15
Pirates varsity victory over the Wolfpack on Oct. 23, 1971.
"The play was 50 trap," Wallace said.
"State had an All-American nose guard (George Smith) and we worked on
that because he slanted every play."
Wallace was supposed to read Smith and
go opposite from his slant. Wallace said offensive coordinator Vito
Raggazo called the play and said quarterback John Casazza moved aside to
allow Wallace to get a view of the Pack nose's alignment before stepping
"He was slanted to the right and I went
to my right," Wallace said.
Wallace broke free and outran Pack
defenders to the delight of the ECU fans among a crowd listed at 18,000
in the current ECU media guide. The Pirates were just 1-5 coming into
that game under first-year head coach Sonny Randle, while the Wolfpack
had the same record in its only season under Al Michaels, who had been
defensive coordinator under previous head coach Earle Edwards.
Despite the records, Wallace said there
was plenty of emotion.
"It was a big rivalry game," he
recalled. "Everybody was real excited and looking forward to it."
And the aftermath of ECU's first win
"It was chaos," Wallace said. "A big
day for us."
Fast forward four decades
Wallace coached on the high school
level after going to camp with the Washington Redskins out of ECU. He
has been a sales representative for a corrugated container company since
1983 and resides in the Piedmont community of Mebane.
He has more than casual alumnus
interest in the current Pirates. His son, Bill Wallace, Jr., was an
outstanding linebacker at Eastern Alamance and was recruited by smaller
schools such as Guilford, Lenoir-Rhyne and Wofford as a senior last
The younger Wallace chose to walk on at
ECU and made the team as a safety. He will likely redshirt this season
along with most of the true freshmen.
The elder Wallace saw ECU's wins over
Virginia Tech and West Virginia and watched last week's 28-24 win at
Tulane on television. He's been impressed as the Pirates have moved into
the national rankings.
"I've been watching East Carolina since
back in the '70's," Wallace said. "And I personally think this is the
best East Carolina team ever. Depth is going to have to step up with
some of the injuries we've had, but I think it will.
"There were 23 players who made tackles
against West Virginia and that tells you that's over two teams of
players out there making plays."
Wallace has also been impressed with
the Pirates' quickness and the job that senior quarterback Patrick
Pinkney has done.
Pinkney's 24-yard touchdown pass to
Jamar Bryant with 1:41 left to play provided the winning points at the
Louisiana Superdome. The Pirates finished with a 316-312 edge in total
yardage against a Tulane team that had outgained Alabama 318-172 the
"This past week (the Pirates) showed
their true colors," Wallace said. "They got down and they came back."
ECU will take a 3-0 record and a No. 15
national ranking into Raleigh. Wallace expects ECU to come out on top,
but his personal experience and familiarity with the series have taught
him not to take the outcome for granted. Although State is 1-2, it has
faced a challenging schedule, its two losses coming on the road to South
Carolina and Clemson.
"You can throw the records out the
window," he said. "They beat the heck out of us in Greenville last year
(34-20 Wolfpack win). I feel like our guys will be headed for some
revenge. But State's got their backs to the wall from what's going on
"We're going to have to play a real
good football game, but, to be honest, I expect us to. I sure hope we
'Act like you've won before'
An announcement over the public address
system warned fans not to go on the field following the win over West
Virginia. Despite a significant law enforcement presence, many Pirate
fans could not contain their elation and streamed onto the Dowdy-Ficklen
Stadium playing surface.
Some law enforcement personnel
apparently reacted with a questionable degree of force, but attending
games and supporting the Pirates does not entitle fans to defy game
Conference USA came down on ECU with a
$10,000 fine. Athletic director Terry Holland issued a statement asking
fans to remain in the stands and celebrate by joining in as the team
sings the fight song following future wins.
The situation after the West Virginia
game put some negative spin on a highly-positive achievement.
A precedent that puts the situation
into perspective comes to mind.
When Charlie Bryant was coaching the
N.C. State freshmen basketball team — back in the Billy Wallace era —
the Wolfpack was on the verge of upsetting North Carolina at Reynolds
Coliseum. Bryant called timeout in the final seconds when the outcome
The frosh coach told his team not to
"Act like you've won a game before and
act like you expected to win this game," he said.
There's a lesson to be learned there.
Skip Holtz, his staff and players and
the backing of the Pirate Nation have helped build the program into one
that has already proved capable of competing with the better teams
nationally this season. Demonstrations of support for the program's
accomplishments need to be conducted in a manner that will not reflect
poorly on the team or the university.
The nation is watching ECU to a greater
extent than ever before and fans need to exhibit their support in the
right way, especially to enhance the opportunities that this season
could potentially provide.
As long as the present policy of
staying off the field is in place, ECU fans need to abide by it. Here's
to belting out that fight song loud enough to drown out the Southern Cal