(Photos: ECU SID)
The opening segment of ESPN2's coverage
of East Carolina's Conference USA football game at Memphis on Tuesday
night showed Tigers coach Tommy West talking to his players at the team
hotel that afternoon.
The gist of West's remarks were that
the Tigers should go out and have fun.
Maybe the message should have focused a
little more on the importance of execution. The Pirates
beat Memphis 38-19 in large part
by capitalizing on mistakes by the Tigers.
"East Carolina does a really nice job
of being a team that doesn't make mistakes to lose the game," West said.
"We couldn't be that team to beat that team."
ECU committed one turnover while the
Tigers made four. The Pirates outscored Memphis 21-3 on possessions
The Tigers, who had beaten Texas-El
Paso 35-20 on Oct. 10 in their previous game at the Liberty Bowl, wasted
no time in playing the part of generous hosts. On the opening kickoff,
an offside penalty made about a 20-yard difference in field position
to ECU's benefit.
Dominique Lindsay set the tone with a
9-yard burst up the middle on the Pirates' first play from scrimmage as
ECU drove 63 yards to take a 7-0 lead. Lindsay, who used the extra time
allowed by the Tuesday night game to recover from an ankle injury
against Rice on Oct. 17, rushed
for 139 yards on 22 carries. As a team, ECU outrushed the Tigers 275
yards to 84.
The Pirates' first score came on a
fourth-and-one call at the Memphis 3-yard line. Lou Holtz, working in
the broadcast booth as an ESPN analyst, summed up the decision by his
son, ECU coach Skip Holtz, to gamble early in the game.
"Great call if he makes it," said the
"And if he doesn't?" asked one of
Holtz's colleagues on the telecast.
"Then you say, 'What an idiot,' " Lou
said, chuckling at the all-or-nothing consequences of the situation.
Patrick Pinkney's 3-yard keeper kept
the younger Holtz's mental capabilities from being questioned. The game
matched up a pair of sixth-year quarterbacks, Pinkney and Memphis' Will
Hudgens, who was injured in the first quarter of a 30-10 loss to ECU in
Greenville in 2008.
Pinkney had one of his better efforts,
completing 14 of 26 passes for 216 yards with a touchdown. Pinkney also
ran for two scores.
Two solid tackles by Emanuel Davis
helped limit the Tigers to a field goal on their first possession.
Memphis' problems really began with a
muffed punt the Pirates recovered at the Tigers' 10-yard line. Operating
from the Wildcat formation, Dwayne Harris continued his recent offensive
production with an 8-yard scoring run for a 14-3 lead.
Memphis coughed up possession again on
a botched pitched that Levin Neal recovered for ECU. Giavanni Ruffin
bolted for nine yards and ran hard on a series capped by a 23-yard run
by Pinkney around the left side for a 21-3 Pirates lead with 12:02 left
in the half.
"Fortunately, we were the beneficiaries
of a couple of turnovers early," said Skip Holtz after ECU had improved
to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in C-USA going into a Thursday night date with
Virginia Tech at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Nov. 5. "We got one (fumble)
on defense and we got one on special teams.
" ... This is a very talented Memphis
team and I feel very fortunate to come out of here with a win."
ECU had a 16-3 halftime lead disappear
on Jan. 2 against Kentucky in the Liberty Bowl game the last time the
Pirates played in Memphis. The Wildcats rallied for a 25-19 win.
The Tigers threatened to rally as
6-foot-9 Carlos Singleton hauled in a touchdown pass to cut the lead to
21-10. The Pirates got a break when a possible turnover was negated by
West calling a timeout before the snap.
It was that kind of night for the
Tigers, and the Pirates made the most of their opportunities.
With ECU holding a sizeable lead,
Memphis had to abandon its running game in its comeback bid. Singleton
and Duke Calhoun each had nine catches but the Pirates kept control with
a productive running game. Success on the ground no doubt contributed to
Pinkney's ability to produce through the air.
"When you can turn and run the ball,
when you can turn and put some touchdowns on the scoreboard instead of
having to kick field goals all the time, it makes a difference," Holtz
said. "The only way to take the air out of somebody's sails is to be a
physical-natured football team. You can't just throw it around and say,
'Yeah, well, we beat you.
"You've got to be able to line up. I
think that offensive line has done a really nice job. Then you've got
guys like Dominique Lindsay and Giavanni Ruffin. It was nice to have a
running game like that.
"When you can run the ball like that,
you've got a chance to be a pretty good football team."
Bass noted that the long-range weather
forecast looks favorable for next Thursday night's home game with the
Hokies. The defending ACC champions dropped their second straight with a
20-17 loss to North Carolina on Thursday night.
A Virginia Tech fumble led to a
decisive game-ending field goal by UNC-Chapel Hill's Casey Barth.
There has been talk about whether ECU
fans should dress in black, in purple or as Pirates for the
nationally-televised contest (ESPN).
The game is a sellout.
"The important thing is for Pirate
fannies to be in every seat," Bass said. "We want to support the team
and be good hosts. It's a showcase opportunity for our program and we
want people to be there."
Slight lag in hoops
As of 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, East
Carolina had sold 2,033 season tickets for basketball, according to
Jimmy Bass, senior associate athletics director for external operations.
That's about 100 less than at this point last year and about 200 fewer
than at the same point in 2007-08 when Clemson and N.C. State came to
ECU's premier non-conference dates in
Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum include Clemson on Dec. 16 and George
Washington on Dec. 22. Also included in the Pirates' season ticket
package is a game with Wake Forest in Greensboro on Nov. 15.