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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

By Brian Bailey


Team kept big secret bottled up

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

The mystery behind the identity of East Carolina's starting quarterback was finally solved when the Pirates offense took the field for the first time on Sunday.

ECU's coaches decided to keep their choice a secret until game time.

Stadium announcer Morgan Ahlers even skipped over the name in announcing the starting lineup.

Davis knew he would be the man in the opener. He had no idea what kind of day he was in for. He finally let the secret out of the bag after his fifth touchdown pass of the day gave the Pirates a 51-49 victory over Tulsa.

“I’ve known for a while now,” said Davis. “The coaches said to not say anything. They said what happens in our house stays in our house, so I didn’t tell anyone.”

Nobody else did either.

Davis came up with gaudy numbers in his debut. The transfer from Fort Scott Junior College and, before that, Boston College was 27-46 for 383 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for a score as the Pirates racked up 51 big points.

The reason there was such a mystery about the Pirate starter was a play of gamesmanship.

The ECU coaches knew that all the Tulsa coaches had to go on with the Pirates new offense was video on Texas Tech, especially the bowl game.

Davis, though, is a threat as a runner as well. The Pirates put several plays in to utilize that skill. That ability to run with the football put Davis ahead of Brad Wornick in the Pirate quarterback sweepstakes.

“This was the greatest experience of my life,” said Davis after the victory.

I asked him if he had ever had any other kind of experience similar to the win over Tulsa.

“Never,” he replied.

Redshirt freshman Justin Jones was recruited as a tight end. He had to wonder about this new offense when offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley and Company came to town.

Jones has nothing to worry about. He is a great threat, and a huge target for a quarterback.

He also made one of the greatest catches in Pirate football history in the first game of his redshirt freshman year.

All-star receiver Dwayne Harris, who had two touchdowns of his own, joked that Jones had already made the play of his career.

“What can he do from here?” joked Harris, who was almost sawed in half early in Sunday’s game on a pass over the middle that he jumped up to try and haul in.

The winning play against Tulsa was called “Big Ben.” If I’m not mistaken, the Atlanta Falcons first came up with the play and the name and it worked for them twice in one season.

It certainly worked for the Pirates in the opener.

“I’m not bragging, but I expect it,” said ECU coach Ruffin McNeill afterwards. “We work on that play all the time in practice and it works.”

Tulsa must feel absolutely snake-bitten against East Carolina. The Pirates beat the Golden Hurricane in 2008 for the Conference USA title. Then last year East Carolina blew open a close game with defensive touchdowns in a blowout victory.

Now we get the “Miracle in the Boneyard.”

"I've been doing this for 24 years and that's never happened to me,” said Tulsa coach Todd Graham. “We usually have a play we execute to put pressure on the quarterback so he can't make that throw. We called the play and didn't execute. That's our fault. They made the play and we didn't."

McNeill was a winner in his debut as the coach at his alma mater. It’s a game he’ll never forget.

“I’m just so proud of the guys,” said McNeill. They were worried about disappointing me? I know how hard they’ve worked. I’m just happy for them.

“That’s the M.O. of this team, we’ll never quit."

Now it’s a short week, with Memphis due in town on Saturday.

At least we won’t need Sherlock Holmes to find out who the starting quarterback will be…


E-mail Brian Bailey.

Brian Bailey Archives

09/07/2010 03:25 AM


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