Insights and Observations
Monday, October 17, 2005
By Henry Hinton
Football program on cusp
of big season
in on the radio or catch the live feed of
today's Talk of the Town with
in on the radio or catch the live feed of
tonight's Brian Bailey Show,
with guest Rick Smith:
Use whatever cliché you
like. Winning begets winning. Nothing succeeds like success. There is no
question the East Carolina Pirates now feel they are good enough for a huge
finish to the 2005 season.
East Carolina took
another giant step toward respectability with the
24-17 win over Southern Methodist on
Saturday in Dallas. The victory ends a 10-game road losing streak. More
importantly it furthers the notion that ECU can play with any and all league
It could be argued that
the only real disappointing blemish to this edition of the Pirates is the
lopsided defeat by Southern Miss, a loss which was aided by five turnovers.
Skip Holtz’s first team
could create some fireworks in Conference USA, yet.
While SMU does not
necessarily represent the upper crust in Conference USA, the Mustangs came
into Saturday’s game with impressive wins over Texas Christian and UAB. They
have been competitive against all comers with the exception of a blowout at
the hands of Texas A&M.
The idea that the Pirates
have played the toughest part of their schedule and should be competitive
with all teams remaining seems to have legs at this point of the season.
Saturday’s victory was
particularly satisfying for the defensive coaching staff. After his
secondary picked off four Jerad Romo passes, including the big one by Pierre
Parker that led to the final ECU score, Skip Holtz acknowledged the job by
defensive coordinator Greg Hudson and Rick Smith, who coaches the defensive
backs. (Note: Rick Smith will be the featured guest on tonight's Brian
Bailey Show on Talk 1070 AM from 7-8 p.m. Click
here for the live
Internet feed or listen to the
archive of the show later.)
“Rick’s really doing a
great job with those secondary guys,” said Holtz. “They’re believing.
They’re confident. And you know what? This stuff works. The fundamentals and
the coverages we’re playing, the checks we’re making… I think as much as
anything else they are buying into the system because they are seeing the
results right now.”
SMU had just one
sustained drive resulting in a score all day. It came early in the third
period. They took the second half kick-off and drove 75 yards in 14 plays
but settled for a 22-yard field goal.
Their two touchdowns came
on drives of just 4 and 24 yards. The first was the product of a James
Pinkney interception and the second came after Ryan Dougherty had to rush a
punt out of his own end zone, giving SMU the ball on the Pirate 24.
Speaking of Pinkney, that
first quarter interception was about the only mistake in his body of work
for the day. Otherwise the junior Pirate quarterback ran for 42 yards and
three touchdowns and completed 15 of 22 passes for 225 yards.
Pinkney took over sole
possession of fourth place on the ECU all time passing list. He has now
passed for more than 200 yards in 9 of his last 11 games. He also is now
just one of four Pirate quarterbacks to throw for more than 4,000 yards in a
career. In Saturday's game, he also tied Marcus Crandall for 200-plus-yard
passing performances. Only David Garrard has more.
As ECU now heads for
another road game at Memphis, expectations continue to grow. The Pirates
would have to continue to improve to put themselves in bowl contention. With
the defense playing well and the offense taking advantage of some
extraordinary athletes, it could happen.
With remaining games at
Memphis, Tulsa and Marshall and home games with Central Florida and UAB, it
is totally conceivable that this team could get there. ECU now finds itself
tied for first place in C-USA East with
three other teams.
Areas of concern continue
to be the play of the offensive line with regard to the running game. While
the numbers were dramatically better on Saturday (127 net rushing yards) as
compared to a week ago versus Rice (just 104 rushing yards), real estate
between the tackles continues to be at a premium. It should be noted,
however, that the line continues to do a great job in pass protection.
Special teams play also
needs to continue to get better if the Pirates are going to challenge the
league in the second half of the season.
All in all Skip Holtz and
his staff continue to do an amazing rebuilding job and have the program in a
position to be a force in Conference USA as we head down the stretch.
If the Pirates can find a
way to win their third straight this week in Elvis-land it would set up the
biggest game in Greenville in many years as George O’Leary’s Central Florida
Golden Knights invade Dowdy-Ficklen for homecoming on October 29th.
Learning to win is
another issue. Holtz was disturbed at the attitude of his team at halftime
in Dallas after taking a 10-point lead into the locker room.
Perhaps the best thing
that could have happened did. The Mustangs ran off 10 unanswered points in
the third period, which served as a statement to the young Pirates that “You
ain’t good enough to cruise.”
At the same time, this
team now takes the field expecting to win. Ask any coach the key to a
turnaround and he’ll tell you that nothing makes winners out of a team like
actually winning. It’s a matter of believing you will prevail while doing
the things necessary to get there. This team may have what it takes.
Is the magic back? Let’s
just say we’re all beginning to feel its return and it feels good.
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04/21/2008 07:04:18 PM