TAKE ON PIRATE SPORTS
August 30, 2011
'Cone of Uncertainty' about to narrow for ECU
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As Hurricane Irene headed
our way last week, the meteorologists kept talking about the “cone of
That cone was basically
the projected path of the storm, give or take several hundred miles on
I love the phrase. Life
itself is basically our own “cone of uncertainty.”
East Carolina certainly
heads to Charlotte with its own “cone.” The Pirates open the season as a
20-point underdog to nationally-ranked South Carolina.
The ECU team got through
Hurricane Irene missing just a Saturday practice. Coach Ruffin McNeill
lost 13 trees at his home, but he and his wife Erlene escaped unharmed.
McNeill opened his first
regular season press conference [Select
and replay press conference in new window...] with an
emotional burst about the Pirate Nation and the hurricane.
“What you’ve seen happen
here is what we’ve talked about since I arrived,” said McNeill. “It’s
about Pirates helping Pirates. We’ve talked about tradition. I’ve been
asked by a few media outlets what East Carolina means to me. It was
exemplified by the work done and is still continuing by everybody
around. It’s Pirates helping Pirates. It’s pride. It’s tradition. It’s
passion. It’s a group facing adversity, looking it square in the eye,
hitting it right in the jaw and saying, ‘Bring it on. Want some and get
some.’ That’s East Carolina to me. That’s what it’s about.”
For many of us, Hurricane
Irene reminds us of 1999 and the “Flood of the Century.”
Coach McNeill wasn’t in Greenville that season, but he sees the
similarities — so much so that he decided to show his entire team a film
clip from 1999 when the ECU football team was presented with the Disney
Spirit Award. (View
YouTube film clip in new window.)
“At the end, I told the
team that it was not a made-up movie,” said McNeill. “It did not have
directors or actors. These were Pirates like you are. Maybe they didn’t
sit in this same room, but they donned the purple and gold and played
inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.”
Those of us who were
fortunate enough to be in Carter-Finley Stadium that night 12 years ago
to see the Pirates upset Miami know just how special the evening became.
East Carolina's victory over the ‘Canes was more than just a football
win. It was a rallying cry for eastern North Carolina. It was also a
major step forward in the healing process for the entire region.
“It’s ironic they played
South Carolina and got stuck in Columbia for a week before going to
Raleigh to play Miami,” said McNeill when asked about the similarities
to 1999. “That Hurricanes team had 30 NFL draft choices and 11
first-round picks on the squad. That’s amazing when you think about it.”
McNeill said the players
were really focused in on the video from 1999 and in learning more about
the history of their program.
Just as Miami presented
what seemed to be an impossible assignment in ’99, South Carolina is
cast into that role to kick off the 2011 campaign.
Steve Spurrier is in his
seventh year at South Carolina. He has his Gamecocks as the pick to win
the SEC East Division.
Most of the ink goes to
wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and running back Marcus Lattimore for the
Gamecocks. McNeill has different concerns.
“Their offensive line
concerns me,” said McNeill. “It always starts there. They do a great job
up front working together as a unit."
ECU will unveil its new
3-4 defensive alignment on Saturday night. Most feel the unit will be
much improved this season, but that improvement may take a while.
The Pirates feel like they
can score on any team in the country. It sounds like Coach McNeill is
expecting a high scoring game as well.
understands just what Coach Spurrier wants,” explained Coach McNeill.
“It’s just like Dominique (Davis) understands what Lincoln (Riley) and
we want. Garcia understands the concepts, when to audible to a run and
where and when to deliver the football. Garcia has a great target in
Jeffery, as we do in Lance Lewis. Both will be wearing No. 1 in the
The closer Hurricane Irene
got to our coast, the smaller that “cone of uncertainty” became.
It’s the same with the
football season and the Pirates' own cone of uncertainty. We’ll know so
much more a week from now.
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08/30/2011 04:32 AM