Insights and Observations
Monday, August 22, 2005
By Henry Hinton
Big resurgence not out of
the archives of last week's Talk of the Town
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A team seemingly unable
to win. A fan base in need of rejuvenation. A coaching change made in an
effort to change the tide. The result? An 8-5 season, a bowl bid and the new
man is named Coach of the Year.
A 2005 Pirate fantasy?
Nope. It actually happened…. at Tulsa.
The 2002 Tulsa team had
managed just one win. After a futile decade the university’s front office
pulled the trigger and brought in Steve Kragthorpe, the quarterbacks coach
of the Buffalo Bills. In his first season the new Golden Hurricanes coach
did what most consider darn near impossible.
His 2003 team increased
the number of wins by 7. Kragthorpe led Tulsa to a 6-2 second place record
in the Western Athletic Conference and an appearance in the Humanitarian
Bowl. The 8-5 record was the biggest turnaround in Division 1 that year.
Of course, it would be
unfair to tell that story and not relate the fact that the subsequent
season, last year, Tulsa fell back to a 4-8 record. However, two of the
losses were in overtime and a third came on a last-second field goal from
then No. 18 Boise State.
Get the correlation to
East Carolina? The Pirates will get an up close look at what a real
turnaround program looks and feels like when they play the Golden Hurricanes
as one of the new members of Conference USA on November 12.
Kragthorpe and his
program can be the perfect model for what Skip Holtz and company are trying
to accomplish — a program competing in the shadows of more name brand
football teams and turning things around despite the odds brought on by
recent losing seasons.
With a renewed team
effort (the team being everyone involved — fans included), it can happen.
East Carolina can be the turnaround program of 2005 if things continue to
fall into place.
Being around Greenville,
there is a renewed sense of excitement not felt in recent years. The hiring
of Terry Holland and Skip Holtz have Pirate fans believing ECU can be
another success story.
If you asked Holtz, he
would most likely tell you he would love to be the Tulsa of 2005.
By the way, Kragthorpe
was just rewarded with a new six-year
Preseason camp or Bizarro
After a weekend with my
brain in neutral, I was surprised to read the ECU Media Relations Office's
assessment of the Pirates’ second scrimmage of the year in my email.
In fact, I read the
headline twice just to make sure my cerebellum had fully engaged. It said:
DEFENSE HOLDS UPPER HAND
IN SECOND ECU SCRIMMAGE
Reading down the page, I
found quotes from Coach Holtz including this little gem: “I keep telling
people that we are going to be solid on defense, and if we can build on
today's performance, we will be in good shape."
Wait a minute. Does Holtz
know that last year this defense gave up 39.9 points and 457 yards per game?
Must be something about
the new practice facilities. Everything is new at ECU. Now the Pirates even
Of course, the release
from ECU also cites the head coach's concerns about the way his offense
"We really looked flat
out there offensively," Holtz said. "There was no enthusiasm and we missed
some easy assignments and our handoff exchanges were just not there. On a
positive note, the offensive line looked real solid and that was
The fact that defensive
coordinator Greg Hudson and his staff have “coached them up” on the
defensive side of the ball to a mentionable level at this stage is extremely
encouraging. During Saturday’s 100-play scrimmage the defense allowed 384
yards, considerably less than last year’s average, and held the offense to
just one score.
In addition, Pierre
Parker returned an interception 27 yards for a defensive score.
Stay tuned. This is
QB controversy heats up in
Former ECU quarterback
David Garrard is sporting a new $5 million dollar contract and making the
most of his playing time during the NFL pre-season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars
coaching staff insists there is no quarterback controversy but Garrard has
clearly outplayed starter Byron Leftwich in the first two exhibitions of the
season. Garrard is not sticking to the script, which has the much higher
paid Leftwich outshining the second-stringer.
While Leftwich has had
trouble moving the offense, Garrard’s performance (admittedly probably not
against the opponent’s number one defense) has been stellar.
Last week Garrard had a
12-19 passing evening against the Miami Dolphins. On Saturday, the former
Pirate star went 4-7 against Tampa Bay and threw in a rushing touchdown to
Garrard’s play has
furthered an anti-Leftwich sentiment on talk radio and on the Internet with
Jags fans. T-shirts with the slogan “Put Garrard In” can be seen throughout
columnist Mike Freeman has started referring to those malcontents as the
Byron Hater Nation in the Florida Times Union, the number one newspaper in
Garrard’s name has been
thrown around the league for the last year and many expected him to be
traded out of Jacksonville, but management insisted on receiving a number
one draft pick for his services and there were no takers…. yet.
There have even been
thoughts recently that Garrard might still be on his way elsewhere. When Rex
Grossman went down with a broken ankle last weekend in Chicago, the
Jacksonville media started to speculate about the Bears’ potential interest
Interestingly, the Bears
went after another Pirate great, Jeff Blake, who was signed as a back-up.
Garrard’s day is coming,
maybe sooner rather than later.
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02/23/2007 10:16:39 AM