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Both East Carolina’s Ruffin McNeill and Old Dominion’s
Bobby Wilder spent part of their Monday with the media.
It is finally game week in Greenville!
The long summer comes to a close as we embark on the
final holiday weekend of the season. More often than not, Labor Day
weekend means Pirate football.
Like last season, the year begins with a matchup against
a team from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Old Dominion
will be playing in that program’s first ever game against a Football
Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team in Greenville on Saturday night.
“We know what we are up against,” Wilder told me last
week on my radio show on Pirate Radio 1250 and 930. “It’s a tremendous
challenge for our players and our program.”
Wilder’s program is 38-10 in the team’s first four
seasons. It has certainly been a meteoric rise for ODU in the world of
college football. But Wilder knows that his program is about to head
into unchartered waters.
This game resembles last year’s opener for East Carolina,
when the Pirates battled past Appalachian State, which was also an FCS
program. In that game the Pirates wore down the Mountaineers with
superior speed and depth. That will be the game plan again.
This is a game that features similar offenses. Both teams
will want to spread things out and play super up-tempo. McNeill hopes
that will help in his team’s preparation.
“Both teams spread the football and have the ability to
run it,” said McNeill. “We do have a mixture of design plays, run plays,
and both of us have design plays for our quarterback. When you look at
it, they both play at a very high tempo. So that’s why it was good for
us to continue to scrimmage. This year because of what we’ll be facing
for the first game, it worked well defensively for Rick (Smith) and our
Both teams hope to be improved on defense. They had
better be. These offenses are simply high octane and will put points on
the board this season.
“It’s going to be played at a high tempo, that’s for
sure,” said Pirate offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. “Both offenses
want to find their rhythm.”
We all know the Pirates would like to throw the football.
I’m looking forward to watching the running game. The Pirate “O” has a
chance to have a great one-two punch in senior Vintavious Cooper and
sophomore Cory Hunter.
“Tay Cooper is Tay Cooper, and he’s done a great job,”
said Coach McNeill. “But Cory has done a good job. He is a guy who
catches the football well. He’s a downhill type runner that has great
vision and he is also a three-point running back. He will provide a
great complimentary piece with Tay.”
One guy who can’t wait to get started is junior
quarterback Shane Carden.
“We really want to get the offense cranked up early,”
said Carden. “It took us a while last year. This year we want to come
out and go to work right away.”
This matchup with Old Dominion may come down to a battle
ODU is led by 2012 Payton Award winner Taylor Heinicke,
who threw for over 5,000 yards last year. That was against FCS
competition. Heinicke, like the rest of the Monarchs, will face a
different talent level on Saturday night.
As both offenses like the up-tempo approach, there are
also similarities between the two quarterbacks.
“They both are dual quarterbacks and lead their team,”
said McNeill. “We got a chance to meet at Media Day and those two were
like clones. Both are really good looking guys, built, and both have
that intensity about them.”
The most important aspect of those parallels comes at
“With the similarities, we have been able to show the
defense some good looks at what ODU does offensively,” McNeill said.
I’ve joked all summer that with my alma mater coming to
town, we should dub this game as “The Brian Bailey Bowl.” Old Dominion
has changed tremendously since my days in the Batten Arts & Letters
Building. I’m thrilled that the school added football, and I try to make
it back to campus at least once a year.
This year, the Monarchs come to my home town.
I think it will be a long night for ODU.
I believe the Pirates' speed, strength and overall depth
will come into play in this game. ODU will score, but I think the
Pirates will take control early and win going away.
I like East Carolina to take this one, 42-21.
Hang on, because it’s a short week. Florida Atlantic
comes to town five days later.