Insights and Observations
Monday, September 19, 2005
By Henry Hinton
Loss can't conceal program's
in on the radio or catch the live feed of
today's Talk of the Town with
It may have been hard to
spot but East Carolina’s football program took another positive step toward
its own rehabilitation Saturday night at Wake Forest.
No, the outcome was not
good in terms of the score and, yes, the Demon Deacons' running game made
gaps in the Pirate defense larger than the one in Lauren Hutton’s teeth. (I
know I am dating myself but I could not think of anyone younger).
However, there are still
some reasons to be optimistic.
There was a time when ECU
and Wake Forest were pretty close in terms of talent. That simply has not
been the case in recent years. Once again, just as in the opener versus
Duke, ECU had three players on the field that gave them any chance of being
James Pinkney, who did
not have a particularly good game, Chris Johnson and the electrifying
Aundrae Allison give the Pirates some hope of sticking with teams that have
superior talent at other positions on the field.
The bad news is that West
Virginia, ECU's next opponent, has even better players than Wake. The good
news is that after that game in Morgantown, the Pirates may be pretty close,
talent-wise, with everyone else they play.
Wake Forest’s running
game is a work of art. Jim Grobe has designed and his players are executing
a creative offensive attack that employs an unusually large amount of
misdirection and unique blocking schemes that ECU will not see that often.
The quarterback has the
plays signaled in from the sideline at the line of scrimmage on each down in
a “check with me” system that even the Pirates started using with some
success in the second half. Calling the play AFTER looking over the defense
gives the offense an interesting advantage. It’s amazing we do not see it
more in college football.
That Wake Forest EVER
passed was strange and unnecessary. When the Pirates started their exciting
comeback in the second half after being down 31-6, the Deacons really
stopped themselves more than the ECU defense ever did. Grobe should
reprimand the coach who called those first down passes on two separate
drives. A running team normally does that to keep the defense honest but
when you can average over 5 yards per carry all night, passing is needed
only to avoid boredom.
Wake’s running back
tandem of Chris Barclay and Micah Andrews are a perfect fit for Grobe’s
scheme. Barclay is clearly one of the best backs in the country. After being
picked as first-team All-ACC a year ago, Barclay now has the sophomore
Andrews to push him should he decide to become complacent.
So, why be positive about
the Pirates' prospects? Let’s start with the fact that ECU will not see a
running attack like that again this year (the writer says, holding his
breath that West Virginia will not pull another one of their track meets
against ECU this week).
Secondly, the comeback
itself shows that the spirit of the program is coming back. No, ECU did not
have the horses to complete the job this time, but if the Pirates had been
down 31-6 in the first half at any point in the last two seasons the result
might well have been a 50-point butt-kicking.
While the final 10-point
deficit to the Deacs may seem generous to those who witnessed the thrashing,
this edition of the Pirates did not quit.
Looking ahead, ECU fans
should get a sense that the program is on pretty sound footing for the
future. The players are playing hard. A very good coaching staff is coaching
hard, and this would seem to be the toughest stretch in the schedule,
although a couple of conference teams have had surprising starts.
Having the line play
improve each week and keeping the ‘Terrific Trio’ (Pinkney, Johnson and
Allison) healthy will mean the Pirates could make some noise in the league.
Their play and Holtz’s offense have the potential to give defensive
coordinators some headaches in upcoming weeks. Putting up 34 points on Wake
should be a reason to celebrate.
Competitive. That is what
this team is striving to be.
Getting back there is not
easy but it appears the journey has begun.
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