Insights and Observations
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
By Henry Hinton
Pirates sailing into the
teeth of the curse
Carolina-Southern Mississippi series has been a lopsided affair in recent
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What is it about Southern
Miss? If East Carolina has a nemesis the Golden Eagles are it. The Pirates
have lost nine of the last ten games against USM.
Skip Holtz and company
are hoping to break the jinx this week.
Perhaps it is no accident
that ECU has to go to Hattiesburg within the same week as Halloween. If ever
there was a hex put upon a team, Eagles’ coach Jeff Bowers has worked his
magic on the Pirates time and time again.
Holtz pointed out in his
weekly media conference on Monday that Southern Miss has defeated ECU by a
combined score of 84-17 for the last two years. If that isn’t frightening,
enough consider that the score for the last four games has been USM 146, ECU
That means the Golden
Eagles have averaged scoring nearly 37 points per game in this series the
last four years. Aren’t they known for their defense?
Plainly put, East
Carolina usually plays awful in this game. Only the 2000 Mud Bowl Pirate win
(14-9) stands in the way of the Pirates going O for a decade.
"I've never been to
Southern Miss, but I heard it's a difficult place to play,” said Holtz on
Monday. “I know the atmosphere and the type of football they play probably
thrives on playing at home and the momentum. I know they draw really well as
a crowd. It will be a very difficult environment for us to start our trip."
An understatement. There
is something about the road trip that seems to create a malaise on teams
that play in M.M. Roberts Stadium.
Is there something in the
water at the Hattiesburg Holiday Inn, the only hotel in town big enough to
house the visiting team?
There is hope. East
Carolina played its most complete game of the season against Southern
Methodist last Saturday and Southern Miss is not having a typical banner
year. The Golden Eagles (4-3) are coming off a difficult 36-6 loss at
"I think East Carolina
has really improved since a year ago,” Bower said in his weekly media
conference on Monday. “They're a much better football team.”
Bower complimented Pirate
quarterback James Pinkney and called Aundrae Allison a “big time player.” Of
course, the coach is correct. Allison’s return sparked the ECU offense last
week and the Pirates looked like they were clicking on all cylinders against
Bower spoke to the
importance of this game in relation to his teams’ season. “We're getting
into a five-game stretch where you've got to play them all like the
championship games. Five conference games, four within the East and one
outside the East, but all conference games and all are very important."
Southern Miss has
dominated the eastern division of Conference USA since the league's
inception but has two narrow conference wins this season, 19-14 over Central
Florida and 31-27 over Houston. The Golden Eagles also have a 20-6 loss to
Perhaps the most
impressive win on their schedule is the 37-17 beating they gave N.C. State
For Holtz, it is the
first road trip since Sept. 9, when ECU lost to UAB. Having five games in a
row in Greenville may have seemed like a blessing, but now the Pirates must
prove they can win on the road — something they have not done this year. The
Pirates got two road wins last year, at SMU and Marshall.
"One of the things I
didn't like about playing on the road the first two games of the season is
all the inexperience you have,” Holtz said. “You would like to give them an
opportunity to play at home where all the momentum is on your side and the
crowd is on your side.”
The Pirates get another
chance at growing up on Saturday, but everyone agrees that getting a win in
Hattiesburg is a mammoth task.
If Skip Holtz is
superstitious at all, he may want to try something to ward off the evil
spirits that always help the Golden Eagles in this game. It’s all part of
the Bower hex.
There are probably some
witch doctors down in that part of Mississippi.
Try the ‘eye of noot,’
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This page updated
04/21/08 07:05 PM.