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ECU News, Notes and Commentary

The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, September 14, 2005

By Bethany Bradsher

Battle in the trenches shapes up as key


With the Duke game and only 103 rushing yards in their rear-view mirrors, the East Carolina coaching staff paid special attention to the Pirates' offensive line this week during film sessions. It was, on the whole, a heartening evaluation.

“Going back watching the film, I felt during the course of the game we were physically really being manhandled up front,” Holtz said. “I was really encouraged, believe it or not, after watching the film, because if you’re being physically outmatched, you can’t correct that in a week. The things that we saw on film were correctable.”

Offensive linemen are the air traffic controllers of the gridiron: They’re almost invisible, but one missed assignment can produce major problems. And most of the mishaps against the Blue Devils could be traced easily to a single player making a beginner’s mistake.

“On the offensive line you can have four guys that make great blocks and one guy that goes the wrong way and somebody’s free in your backfield and everybody goes, boy, they aren’t very good up front,” Holtz said.

With an off week spent drilling on fundamentals behind them and some personnel changes made to shore up the Pirates' front, offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler said that both the linemen and the backs have made significant progress in a short period of time.

The best component of the Duke game from the offensive line's standpoint was its effectiveness in protecting the quarterback, Steve Shankweiler said. James Pinkney was hardly touched by the Duke defense, but the Wake Forest defenders will undoubtedly throw up steeper hurdles.

“Even if we’re hitting on all cylinders, it’ll be a challenge,” Shankweiler said of the Demon Deacons. “Nebraska couldn’t run the ball on them.”

Even though the Cornhuskers came out with a 31-3 win last week, WFU held them to just 30 rushing attempts for 120 yards thanks to the efforts of a stellar defensive line anchored by defensive tackle Goryal Scales. With the Pirates still working to find their rhythm on the ground, they won’t be doing it in an easy environment, Holtz said.

“Their strength comes from their front four,” he said. “I think they’ve got a couple of NFL prospects on their defensive line.”

Even though WFU has plenty of strengths that are holding the Pirates’ attention in workouts this week, last week was spent with little mention of their next opponent. Instead the coaches opted to take the team back to boot camp to fix the problems that cropped up during the season opener.

“It was a very productive week for us,” Holtz said. “We went back to the drawing board, and instead of saying we’re going to take two weeks to get ready for Wake Forest, we really said we’re going to take this week and we’re going to concentrate on us and try to improve our football team.”

Katrina victims not forgotten

With frequent Conference USA opponent Tulane exiled from its New Orleans campus and defensive line coach Donnie Thompson’s family picking up the pieces in Louisiana, the senior leaders on the ECU squad wanted to do their part to help victims recover from the Katrina catastrophe.

So team captains Gary Freeman, Chris Moore and Richard Koonce turned to their fellow Pirates and asked for donations. They collected $2,000, which they presented to the American Red Cross at Holtz’s Monday press conference.

“We just thought whatever little thing we could do, to at least raise some money and send it to them just to let them know that we care,” said Freeman, a senior offensive lineman from Chesapeake, VA.

When I was a college student I mastered the art of eating dinner at Taco Bell for less than $2, so a collection of that amount from a group of college kids, athletes or not, is no small feat.

Prestigious nomination

Pirate punter Ryan Dougherty was named to the watch list for the Ray Guy Award, which is presented annually to the top college punter in the nation. Dougherty, who was also on the list last season, is a two-time All-Conference USA selection who has punted for at least 200 yards during 11 games in his career.

In the season opening victory against Duke, Dougherty punted five times for 201 yards and an average of 40.2 yards. His 59-yard punt in the fourth quarter was the fifth longest punt of his career.

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02/23/2007 01:11:41 AM

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