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View from the 'ville
Friday, October 30, 2009

By Al Myatt

Opportune Bucs feast on miscues

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

The opening segment of ESPN2's coverage of East Carolina's Conference USA football game at Memphis on Tuesday night showed Tigers coach Tommy West talking to his players at the team hotel that afternoon.

The gist of West's remarks were that the Tigers should go out and have fun.

Maybe the message should have focused a little more on the importance of execution. The Pirates beat Memphis 38-19 in large part by capitalizing on mistakes by the Tigers.

"East Carolina does a really nice job of being a team that doesn't make mistakes to lose the game," West said. "We couldn't be that team to beat that team."

ECU committed one turnover while the Tigers made four. The Pirates outscored Memphis 21-3 on possessions following takeaways.

The Tigers, who had beaten Texas-El Paso 35-20 on Oct. 10 in their previous game at the Liberty Bowl, wasted no time in playing the part of generous hosts. On the opening kickoff, an offside penalty made about a 20-yard difference in field position — to ECU's benefit.

Dominique Lindsay set the tone with a 9-yard burst up the middle on the Pirates' first play from scrimmage as ECU drove 63 yards to take a 7-0 lead. Lindsay, who used the extra time allowed by the Tuesday night game to recover from an ankle injury sustained against Rice on Oct. 17, rushed for 139 yards on 22 carries. As a team, ECU outrushed the Tigers 275 yards to 84.

The Pirates' first score came on a fourth-and-one call at the Memphis 3-yard line. Lou Holtz, working in the broadcast booth as an ESPN analyst, summed up the decision by his son, ECU coach Skip Holtz, to gamble early in the game.

"Great call — if he makes it," said the elder Holtz.

"And if he doesn't?" asked one of Holtz's colleagues on the telecast.

"Then you say, 'What an idiot,' " Lou said, chuckling at the all-or-nothing consequences of the situation.

Patrick Pinkney's 3-yard keeper kept the younger Holtz's mental capabilities from being questioned. The game matched up a pair of sixth-year quarterbacks, Pinkney and Memphis' Will Hudgens, who was injured in the first quarter of a 30-10 loss to ECU in Greenville in 2008.

Pinkney had one of his better efforts, completing 14 of 26 passes for 216 yards with a touchdown. Pinkney also ran for two scores.

Two solid tackles by Emanuel Davis helped limit the Tigers to a field goal on their first possession.

Memphis' problems really began with a muffed punt the Pirates recovered at the Tigers' 10-yard line. Operating from the Wildcat formation, Dwayne Harris continued his recent offensive production with an 8-yard scoring run for a 14-3 lead.

Memphis coughed up possession again on a botched pitched that Levin Neal recovered for ECU. Giavanni Ruffin bolted for nine yards and ran hard on a series capped by a 23-yard run by Pinkney around the left side for a 21-3 Pirates lead with 12:02 left in the half.

"Fortunately, we were the beneficiaries of a couple of turnovers early," said Skip Holtz after ECU had improved to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in C-USA going into a Thursday night date with Virginia Tech at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Nov. 5. "We got one (fumble) on defense and we got one on special teams.

" ... This is a very talented Memphis team and I feel very fortunate to come out of here with a win."

ECU had a 16-3 halftime lead disappear on Jan. 2 against Kentucky in the Liberty Bowl game — the last time the Pirates played in Memphis. The Wildcats rallied for a 25-19 win.

The Tigers threatened to rally as 6-foot-9 Carlos Singleton hauled in a touchdown pass to cut the lead to 21-10. The Pirates got a break when a possible turnover was negated by West calling a timeout before the snap.

It was that kind of night for the Tigers, and the Pirates made the most of their opportunities.

With ECU holding a sizeable lead, Memphis had to abandon its running game in its comeback bid. Singleton and Duke Calhoun each had nine catches but the Pirates kept control with a productive running game. Success on the ground no doubt contributed to Pinkney's ability to produce through the air.

"When you can turn and run the ball, when you can turn and put some touchdowns on the scoreboard instead of having to kick field goals all the time, it makes a difference," Holtz said. "The only way to take the air out of somebody's sails is to be a physical-natured football team. You can't just throw it around and say, 'Yeah, well, we beat you.

"You've got to be able to line up. I think that offensive line has done a really nice job. Then you've got guys like Dominique Lindsay and Giavanni Ruffin. It was nice to have a running game like that.

"When you can run the ball like that, you've got a chance to be a pretty good football team."

Favorable primetime forecast

Bass noted that the long-range weather forecast looks favorable for next Thursday night's home game with the Hokies. The defending ACC champions dropped their second straight with a 20-17 loss to North Carolina on Thursday night.

A Virginia Tech fumble led to a decisive game-ending field goal by UNC-Chapel Hill's Casey Barth.

There has been talk about whether ECU fans should dress in black, in purple or as Pirates for the nationally-televised contest (ESPN).

The game is a sellout.

"The important thing is for Pirate fannies to be in every seat," Bass said. "We want to support the team and be good hosts. It's a showcase opportunity for our program and we want people to be there."

Slight lag in hoops ticket sales

As of 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, East Carolina had sold 2,033 season tickets for basketball, according to Jimmy Bass, senior associate athletics director for external operations. That's about 100 less than at this point last year and about 200 fewer than at the same point in 2007-08 when Clemson and N.C. State came to Greenville.

ECU's premier non-conference dates in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum include Clemson on Dec. 16 and George Washington on Dec. 22. Also included in the Pirates' season ticket package is a game with Wake Forest in Greensboro on Nov. 15.

E-mail Al Myatt

Al Myatt Archives

10/30/2009 03:27 AM


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