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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, November 2, 2010

By Brian Bailey

Handling Adversity, Part II

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

Earlier this season I wrote that the way East Carolina handled the adversity of the losses to Virginia Tech and North Carolina would go a long way in determining the amount of success this team would have.

I say it again.

Just how the Pirates handle the loss at Central Florida will determine how they finish this season.

East Carolina is now on the outside looking in as far as the championship of the Conference USA East Division is concerned. [View Standings] UCF would have to lose two league games in November, and the Pirates would have to run the table. Both are difficult assignments.

While a third straight Conference USA title is now a long shot, there are still several bowl opportunities out there.

That’s the new rallying cry.

Ruffin McNeill still has a chance to take his first ever ECU football team to a bowl game. He would be the first East Carolina coach to take his team bowling in his first season in the modern era. Jack Boone led then-East Carolina College to the Lion’s Bowl in 1952 in his first year as the Pirates coach.

McNeil says it’s a good point, but that all is not lost as far as Conference USA and the East Division goes. He also understands that it’s how his team handles the disappointment of the loss that will determine the squad’s ultimate success.

“It's all about learning and developing,” said McNeill. “East Carolina lost one game last year and won the East Division and two games a couple years ago and won it here. I look at it that way. The glass is more than half full for me and us.”

McNeill was able to rally his team after the pair of tough losses in Blacksburg and Chapel Hill. His Pirates fell behind by 20 at Southern Miss before coming back for the victory. The Pirates were able to beat the Golden Eagles, and followed that up with wins over N.C. State and Marshall.

Now comes another disappointing outing. How the Pirates respond will tell the story.

"It's a part of developing a team, tough,” said McNeill. “We had some tough times versus Virginia Tech and North Carolina and battled back. We won a couple games and went into a tough, tough environment Saturday and played a very, very good football team. We knew that all week. I knew they would be tough from top to bottom. We had beaten them eight of nine times, but they did a great job. My hat is off to Central Florida.”

Next up is Navy, a program that always offers up an oddball option attack on offense that usually gives teams problems. Duke didn’t seem to have any problems early in its upset win over the Midshipmen on Saturday, but that’s certainly not the norm.

North Carolina State coach Tom O’Brien said after his team’s loss to the Pirates that the ECU offense was much like the Navy offense in that both offenses get everyone the football. Oddly, that’s how the offenses are similar. How both teams get players the football is done in a completely different manner.

Most will look at the matchup between the Pirate defense and the Navy option as the key in this contest.

"It'll be a physical day for our defense this week versus Navy,” said McNeill. “It'll be a discipline and assignment-focused day for our defense playing this type of offense. Ken Niumatalolo (Navy coach) has done a great job installing his system. They do a great, great job. It'll be a physical contest for our football team. It'll be about the sixth game in a row of pretty physical football.”

For the Pirate defense it will be a very difficult challenge. Teams have piled up yardage running the football. North Carolina cut its game plan all the way down to “three yards and a cloud of dust” in rolling by the Pirates in the second half of that game.

That’s the worrisome part for the East Carolina defense. Navy will come to Greenville to run the football. It’ll be the Pirates' job to stop that run. The Pirates will have to play a disciplined defense to have success. The Midshipmen tend to capitalize on over-aggressive teams. It will certainly be physical!

It will be a tall task for the defense, but it should make for an entertaining contest.

This East Carolina team still has plenty to play for. Saturday’s game, though not critical, is very important to that goal of getting to a bowl game.


E-mail Brian Bailey.

Brian Bailey Archives

11/02/2010 01:32 AM


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