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Henry's Highlights
Monday, September 19, 2005

By Henry Hinton

Loss can't conceal program's progress

©2005 Bonesville.net

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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 competitive.

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.

Maybe.

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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04/21/2008 07:05:43 PM

 

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