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CHRONICLING ECU & C-USA SPORTS
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View from the 'ville
Friday, October 23, 2009

By Al Myatt

Pirates adjust to TV games

By Al Myatt
©2009 Bonesville.net
All rights reserved.

East Carolina coach Skip Holtz will have his program on national television the next three games, but he rarely gets to watch live college football on the tube himself.

Holtz will get to view some matchups this Saturday with the Pirates biding their time before a meeting with Memphis at the Liberty Bowl on Tuesday night.

"I'd like to turn and watch some of the other college football games," Holtz said. "I don't get an opportunity to watch much college football during the season. Even if you play at home at 12 o'clock, you're not getting home before about seven o'clock so you don't get an opportunity to see many other teams play.

"When you normally play on Saturday night, you get a chance to watch a little bit of college football, but for this one (at Memphis), you're going to sit in the hotel room all day. If you have college football on, you have something to occupy your players' time.

"The only thing that's going to be on Tuesday is soap operas. We have to come up with what we're going to do with them on Tuesday afternoon."

The Pirates will fly to Memphis on Monday afternoon and work out at the Liberty Bowl on Monday night. There will be team meetings and walk-throughs on Tuesday to keep the team focused on the task at hand.

ECU (4-3, 3-1 C-USA) has already been to the Memphis Zoo, a trip Holtz missed as a youngster when his dad, Lou, had his N.C. State team in the Liberty Bowl. The Pirates visited the zoo before last year's 25-19 loss to Kentucky in the Liberty Bowl. There will be less time in Memphis before Tuesday's kickoff on this regular season trip.

Like the bowl game last year, Lou Holtz will be on hand. In fact, Papa Lou will be involved in the television analysis of ECU's next two dates on national television.

"He's going to be busy this Tuesday and (Nov. 5) because he's going to get a chance to do our next two games," said the younger Holtz. "It'll be great to have him in the stadium and be able to watch our team play. I'm excited about having a chance to be around him again."

Once the game starts, Skip won't be preoccupied by who's in the broadcast booth.

"You're pretty much focused on what you have to do on the field," said the Pirates coach. "He was at the Liberty Bowl (last Jan. 2) with my Mom, and my brothers and my sisters. The whole family was there but during the course of a game, you just focus on what's going on between the lines.

"It'll be great to see him."

The Pirates' unique schedule over the next several weeks provides longer intervals between games that will have value on several fronts.

ECU has more time to prepare for games with Memphis (Oct. 27, ESPN2, 8 p.m.), Virginia Tech (Nov. 5, ESPN, 7:30 p.m.) and Tulsa (Nov. 15, ESPN, 8:15 p.m.). The additional days also will be used by the coaches for recruiting evaluations. The longer than normal span between games also will give ill or injured players more time to recover.

The national television exposure over the next several weeks also will showcase the program, which obviously has potentially positive implications in recruiting.

No "looking ahead" factor

One might wonder about the danger of looking ahead to the Thursday night game with Virginia Tech in Greenville as ECU goes into the key Conference USA clash at Memphis.

"I think their focus is pretty much on conference play," Holtz said. "We realize the experience this team has that we're playing and just how good a football team they are. You can't just look at their record. They did just beat UTEP, which obviously is a lot better than people thought in beating both Houston and Tulsa, and right now is one of the teams on top of the West Division."

Holtz respects Memphis' experience.

"They have eight four-year letterwinners on defense. ... They've just got a lot of guys who have played so much football," he said. "We've been seeing the same numbers and the same players for four years now.

"It's the same thing on offense. They're a very experienced team and they're a very talented team."

Holtz hopes the Pirates learned something about being focused on the road in a 28-21 loss at Southern Methodist on Oct. 10.

"After we went to SMU and stubbed our toe a little bit, we realized just how important this conference game is," said Holtz. "It's the last one we're going to play for the next three Saturdays. This conference is going to really start to take shape by the next time we play our next conference game, which will be Tulsa on that Sunday (Nov. 15)."

Jordan may see action again

Redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jordan, who completed all four of his passes last Saturday in a 49-13 win over Rice, may see similar duty at Memphis.

"We have talked about keeping a very similar plan, where we have a chance to get him in the ball game a little bit early like we did last week as well," Holtz said. "He really responded well in the fourth quarter."

Jordan had an unproductive series in the second quarter against the Owls.

"By the fourth quarter, I thought he had really calmed down," Holtz said. "He went in there and he did a nice job. We've got to turn and start to get him a little bit of experience as we go. I talked all along about putting him in when he's ready to play and I think he proved last week — having the opportunity to play the fourth period against Rice — that he's ready to handle a series during the course of a football game."

Ben Hartman's status

The flu sidelined Pirates senior placekicker Ben Hartman last week against Rice.

"I hate to say the flu was a good thing," Holtz said. "But when you look at Ben Hartman's situation, he had missed most of summer and camp because of that hip injury that he has gone through the last two years.

"Kicking the last seven weeks in a row, I think his leg was a little bit heavy," said Holtz. "His leg was a little bit tired. He didn't have the same pop on the ball, the same height on the ball. I love the experience that he has, but our kicking situation is very similar to the quarterback situation. You've got a sophomore, Ben Ryan, who is very talented, who was able to step in and handle some of the kickoff duties last week at the Rice game.

"(Ryan) was also able to handle all of the PAT duties and even get a field goal in there. The more experience we can get for our sophomores speaks very well for the future but obviously with the experience of a guy like Ben Hartman, I would love for him to be the guy who's going to be the kicker as long as his leg is back to full speed and he's healthy from the flu standpoint."

E-mail Al Myatt

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10/23/2009 03:55 AM
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