From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, July 30, 2013

By Brian Bailey
WNCT-TV 9 Sports Director

Brian Bailey

Reliving history as it happened

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

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The summer has flown by.

The best part about working at the same place for so long is that you accumulate plenty of vacation. The only time to take that vacation is the summer, and it has been fun.

Now though, it’s time to get back to work.

Speaking of work, our 11:30 p.m. Sunday sports show, “The Final Score,” has had a great first year with plenty of Pirate content and excellent ratings. It has really served as a great way to go more in-depth with our coverage of East Carolina athletics.

As part of our coverage this summer we are counting down the top five games in Dowdy-Ficklen stadium history in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the stadium.

The Pirate Nation has already voted and that list will come out later this year.

This is our list, and we are cheating a bit because we’re listing the wins over N.C. State and North Carolina in Greenville as number two on our list. We are combining all three of those games into one.

Our number one game is the 1991 win over Pittsburgh. That also was the infamous cannon game, when I almost had a heart attack doing a stand-up when the cannon went off at my feet. That fact had nothing to do with our choice, but it did serve as a nice sidebar.

As we gear up for a brand new season, I take you back to the number five game on our list, the Pirates 51-49 win over Tulsa in Ruffin McNeill’s first game as the Pirate head coach.

The two teams combined for 1,117 yards and 100 points. There were 12 lead changes. To this day I think Coach McNeill made the decision to have his weight loss surgery after this game, because he knew he couldn’t take many more like that game.

I don’t think any of us could!

Many Pirate fans forget that the game was on a Sunday afternoon for television. The Pirates didn’t even announce their starting quarterback, waiting for that first series to let Dominique Davis head to the huddle.

Davis certainly didn’t disappoint. He was 27-46 through the air with five touchdown passes. His fifth touchdown pass of the afternoon vaulted this game into one of the best in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium’s history.

Davis and the Pirates trailed 49-45 with time enough for one final play. From 33-yards out, Davis rolled to his left and let the pigskin fly.

A trio of Pirates waited for the football. Big Justin Jones was surrounded by Dwayne Harris and Lance Lewis. Jones went up and out-jumped everyone to make the catch.

The crowd went crazy. East Carolina had won Coach Ruff’s opener on a Hail Mary on the last play of the game.

I’ll never forget it, because that touchdown happened just before 6 p.m. that night. I was scheduled to be live outside the stadium and our photographer, Kevin O’Brien, was already outside the stadium ready to go.

I had the other camera and shot the winning play from that end zone. I remember watching the ball in the viewfinder, knowing that if a player in purple came down with the football that I had better be in focus.

It worked out wonderfully. I got the catch, the reaction from the players and the fans, and then raced out of the stadium.

We cued up the winning play in the camera, and showed it to the world literally minutes after it had happened.

East Carolina 51, Tulsa 49 was one of the best games ever.

It’s number five on our list, but it’s likely number one for Pirate coach Ruffin McNeill!

Here’s how we ranked the games for “The Final Score” on WNCT-TV:

We started our rundown this past Sunday and will continue taking a look at the games throughout the month of August. We’ll be showing the video and the old interviews that went along with great parts of Pirate history.

I can tell you this. The 1991 Pittsburgh game will bring tears to your eyes when you hear Bill Lewis tell his team that they are winners. It was very emotional, and very enjoyable for me to go back and relive some of the greatest times in Pirate football history.


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07/30/2013 08:33 AM