CAROLINA & CONFERENCE USA
View from the East
Friday, May 18, 2012
By Al Myatt
Casting a wary eye on 2012 opponents
A Look at the Foes:
Part IV of IV
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We're looking at East
Carolina's three opponents during the home stretch of the 2012 regular
season in the final segment of this series. The three Conference USA
games with Houston, Tulane and Marshall could decide the Pirates' fate
in terms of the league race as well as their possible return to a bowl
after missing out on a postseason trip in 2011 for the first time in six
The Cougars, Green Wave
and Thundering Herd have all undergone some significant transitions that
will impact the respective programs for the upcoming season.
Houston at ECU, Nov. 3
(Hall of Fame Day)
The Cougars were dominant
when they hosted the Pirates in ECU's fifth game last season. Case
Keenum completed 30 of 37 passes for 304 yards with three touchdowns and
no interceptions. Houston added 215 yards rushing
in a 56-3 win at
soon-to-be-replaced Robertson Stadium. Defensively, the Cougars had nine
sacks and picked off four Pirate passes.
Houston will have a
new/old trigger man as Keenum has moved on to sign with the Houston
Texans of the NFL as an undrafted free agent. The Cougars also went
through a coaching transition as Kevin Sumlin left for Texas A&M. The
only loss in a 13-1 campaign came at home to Southern Miss, 49-28, in
the C-USA championship game. The Cougars bounced back to beat Penn State
30-14 in the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas after Tony Levine had been
elevated to the head coaching position from special teams coordinator.
The Cougars are assured of
some continuity from a 13-1 season in 2011 with Levine handling the
reins. He was assistant head coach to Sumlin.
Levine was a walk-on at
Minnesota who earned three letters. He was a graduate assistant at
Auburn for Tommy Tuberville, a member of Bobby Petrino's staff at
Louisville and a Carolina Panthers assistant before joining the Houston
staff in 2008.
David Piland appears to be
the heir apparent to Keenum at quarterback. Piland completed passes to
nine different receivers in leading the Red team to a 42-28 win over the
White in the Cougars' spring game. Piland connected on 21 of 27 passes
for 276 yards and two touchdowns in the spring tilt. Piland sat out all
of 2011 as a redshirt but he saw extensive action as a freshman in 2010
when Keenum's season was derailed by injury. Piland's 2010 numbers
included 201 completions in 345 attempts for 2,641 yards with 24
touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Bram Kohlhausen saw time
in the spring game for both the Red and White teams, hitting on 21 of 33
tosses for 270 yards with two scores and two picks. Crawford Jones also
played for both teams, completing 15 of 21 for 204 yards and two TDs.
All C-USA running back
Charles Sims, who had 821 yards rushing and nine touchdowns as well as
575 yards with four scores as a receiver in 2011, sat out of spring
ball, which allowed Kenneth Farrow and Braxton Welford to get more reps.
Efrem Oliphant had 2.5
sacks in the spring game and fellow linebacker Miller Pierce recorded
The Cougars are scheduled
to move to the Big East Conference after playing in C-USA in 2012.
ECU at Tulane, Nov. 17
The Pirates will head to
the Big Easy after an open date. Last year's open date was significantly
earlier, coming after
a 17-10 loss at home to Virginia Tech
in the second game of the season and preceding
a 28-23 win over Alabama-Birmingham
in ECU's league opener.
Tulane has been involved
in a battle with the New Orleans city council to gain approval for a
30,000-seat football stadium on campus. The facility would allow
tailgating and a better game day atmosphere than the Mercedes-Benz
Superdome, which is off campus and over-sized for the Green Wave's
needs. During an unbeaten season in 1997, Tulane drew just 23,340 to the
Superdome for a 33-16 win over the Pirates.
The Wave has gone through
some coaching musical chairs. Head coach Bob Toledo resigned on Oct. 18
last season after a 44-7 loss to Texas-El Paso. Co-offensive coordinator
Mark Hutson had been elevated to the head coaching position before the
thumped the Wave 34-13 in
Greenville on Oct. 29.
Tulane named Curtis
Johnson to guide the program on Dec. 5. A New Orleans native, Johnson
had spent the previous five seasons as wide receivers coach for the New
Orleans Saints. He helped the NFL team win the Super Bowl to cap the
Johnson took over a
program that was 2-11 overall and 1-7 in C-USA in 2011. A 48-27 loss at
Duke started the program's current 10-game losing streak.
The new coach felt
progress was made during spring practice.
"We had a very good spring
season and I was very pleased with the progress the team made with just
the 15 practices," Johnson said. "I thought we finished ahead of
schedule and that will put us in good shape heading into fall camp. We
need to ... work hard over the summer if we're going to be successful
"We took a hard look out
our personnel prior to and following spring practices and moved some
guys to different positions. I believe we are putting our players in the
best possible positions to be successful."
The Wave has some proven
pieces in place going forward. Quarterback Ryan Griffin returns after
completing 227 of 408 passes for 2,502 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10
interceptions last season. Leading tackler, middle linebacker Trent
Mackey, who began his college career at Duke, returns after making a
team-high 96 solo tackles and assisting on 49 stops last season. Orleans
Darkwa had 924 rushing yards and 13 TDs last season with 305 receiving
yards. Running back Robert Kelley had 1,815 all-purpose yards, including
kickoff returns, in 2011.
The specialists — kicker
Cairo Santos, punter Jonathan Ginsburgh, long snapper John Edwards and
holder Ryan Rome — are all back. Six returners on offense and five on
defense have won starting spots on Johnson's post spring depth chart.
Griffin and Leon Blouin
combined to complete 30 of 48 passes for 315 yards and six touchdowns in
the spring game.
The Green Wave visits
Memphis while ECU has its open date the week before the Pirates travel
to New Orleans.
Marshall at ECU,
Friday, Nov. 23 (Senior Day)
Marshall denied ECU a
sixth straight bowl trip in the Pirates' 2011 season finale as the
pulled out a 34-27 overtime win
in Huntington, WV. The outcome left ECU 5-7 overall, a win shy of bowl
eligibility. The Pirates went 4-4 in C-USA last season. Marshall went on
to defeat future C-USA member Florida International 20-10 in the Beef
O'Brady's Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.
While ECU spent much of
its spring practice looking for the successor to Dominique Davis at
quarterback, Marshall returns Rakeem Cato, who led the Herd to a 7-6
record as a freshman.
Cato threw for 2,059 yards
and 15 touchdowns last season, completing 182 of 304 passes with 11
picked off. The Herd also returns top receiving target Aaron Dobson, who
had 49 catches for 668 yards. Top running back Tron Martinez (160
rushes, 649 yards, 3 TDs) is also back.
Marshall's biggest losses
are on defense. End Vinny Currry was a second round draft choice by the
Philadelphia Eagles. Defensive back Omar Brown signed a free agent
contract with the Baltimore Ravens and defensive lineman Delvin Johnson
agreed to a free agent deal with the Washington Redskins.
Herd coach Doc Holliday, a
former N.C. State assistant on Chuck Amato's staff, had to deal with a
disciplinary situation after defensive back Phillip Warren, running back
Martin Ward, cornerback Corie Wilson and linebacker Stefone Grace were
arrested at a night club in April. Warren is alleged to have struck a
The Herd did not open its
spring game to the general public but will go into 2012 with high
expectations after winning their last three games last season. Marshall
showed its potential with a 26-20 home win over eventual league champion
Southern Miss a year ago.
Holliday has made some
changes on his coaching staff. Lytrel Pollard will coach cornerbacks and
Geep Wade will work with guards and centers on the offensive line. Bill
Legg will now coach tackles and tight ends. Former Virginia Tech
standout and Arizona Cardinals player J.C. Price has come in from James
Madison to be defensive line coach.
Although no kickoff time
has been established for the Friday matchup with the Herd, ECU athletic
director Terry Holland has asked for an early afternoon start that won't
conflict with high school playoff games that night. It's a potential
that led to controversy when Mike Hamrick was
the ECU AD. Hamrick is now AD at Marshall, his alma
It will be the last
regular season home game for ECU's seniors. The Pirates responded to the
occasion last season with
a 38-31 win over Central Florida
that kept ECU's bowl hopes alive.
The Herd will host Houston
the week before coming to Greenville.
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05/31/2012 01:51 AM