From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, September 3, 2013

By Brian Bailey
WNCT-TV 9 Sports Director

Brian Bailey

Pirates planned ahead for quick turnaround


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Football seasons always fly by. With two games in five days to start the year, the season really gets a kick start for Ruffin McNeill and the East Carolina Pirates.

ECU was really good on offense in the win over Old Dominion, but was still very suspect on defense in the 52-38 shootout.

Time will tell the real story. Perhaps ODU quarterback Taylor Heinicke was that good. Some said after the game that he may be the best quarterback the Pirates see this season, and that would include North Carolina's Bryn Renner.

Shane Carden was more than up for the task on Saturday night. He continues to play like he was born to quarterback this offense for Lincoln Riley.

Carden's touchdown pass on the last play of the first half, and Ty Holme's fumble return at the start of the second half were by far the two biggest plays in the opening night victory.

In retrospect, McNeill hinted at his weekly news conference that he probably should have burned a timeout before the play. The only thing that was burned was all of the remaining time in the half. Carden saved the deal though, hitting freshman receiver Davon Grayson with the touchdown pass to give East Carolina the 21-17 halftime lead.

"It's kind of like back-yard football when you are scrambling like that," Carden told me on Monday. I joked with him that I used to make those same kinds of plays in neighborhood pickup games as a kid. "I was just trying to make something positive happen and it worked out," he said.

Two fumbles for touchdowns were also big in the win. Ty Holmes had the scoop and score on a rare Taylor Heinicke mistake. Then Jimmy Booth, the former J.H. Rose offensive and defensive lineman fell on the pigskin in the Pirate end zone after a Vintavious Cooper fumble.

All games have plays that swing contests either way. Those three plays were instrumental in the Pirate victory.

Coach McNeill will take the win and move on.

“It was great to get a win,” said McNeill. “It was great to win a football game on Saturday. You’ve heard me say before, wins are hard. After 28 years in the college business, 30 years overall, we appreciate all wins and this one was a big one.”

Next up is Florida Atlantic on a short week. The Owls lost at Miami to start the season. The birds come to Greenville as big underdogs again this week for a Thursday night special in Greenville.

“We started planning for the short week the first of June,” explained McNeill. “Our project during the summer for our coaches, besides the scouting reports, was to start thinking about the fall schedule. So we knew back in June that we needed to tap on the FAU team a little bit because of the short week. It’s a quick turnaround.”

The Thursday night game slot is all about television, but in talking to the players and coaches after the game you get the feeling they want to get back at it quickly anyway. I don’t think they think we’ve seen anywhere close to the best this Pirate team can play.

Prognosticators expect ECU to prevail over the Owls in the Conference USA opener for both teams. The Pirates are as much as a three-touchdown pick.

The Pirates will also unveil the team’s new black uniforms on Thursday night. The black will reportedly stay in rotation and be used at different times by this team.

I’ve been calling for black uniforms for a long time. It looks good with the purple. I believe every other ECU team has some sort of black look in its uniform, so why not football.

It’s a Thursday night “blackout” for the Pirates this week in game two of this 2013 season.


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