Take on the GMAC Bowl
From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, December 18, 2001
By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9
Are Pirates Bowl-worthy? Just Ask
Bowl Week is Here!
Carolina is Mobile and getting set for Wednesday night’s match-up with
Marshall. Reports from Mobile say that practices have been going well, and
this East Carolina team is putting the finishing touches on the game plan
for the Thundering Herd.
The team practiced
in the rain on Monday. The weather really didn’t slow the squad down, and
proved to be more of a nuisance then anything else.
“We’ve had great
weather,” said Coach Steve Logan. “This was just a little speed bump. It
really didn’t bother us all that much and the weather is expected to better
tomorrow and for game day.”
Logan Has No Apologies
The Pirate coach was
a little edgy when asked in Mobile
about the bowl qualifications of his football team.
“I’ve been at East
Carolina for 13 years. I was here in 1996 when this football team beat North
Carolina State, Miami
and South Carolina, all on the road, and stayed home at 8-3,” noted Logan.
“So guess what — I’m not apologizing for being here. We’ve got a
good football team. We’re fun to watch."
Actually, the N.C.
State game was in Charlotte, but Logan's point was loud and clear just the
case the media didn't get the point, he clarified it for them.
"Every sportscaster and
sportswriter has got airtime and white paper to fill up. You have to say
something," he said. "You can either be a proponent or a critic. You just
have to choose. We’re here and we’re proud to be here.”
And that’s about as
much emotion as you’ll see out of the Pirate coach!
Hoping for the Best
Nothing would make
Pirate fans any happier then to see this football team put together a
complete effort in the GMAC Bowl. The closest ECU came to that kind of
effort in the regular season was against
when the Pirates were dominating.
Marshall team, though, won’t be easy.
The Thundering Herd
likes to throw the football. Quarterback Byron Leftwich completed almost 67%
of his passes this season, throwing for 4,122 yards and 37 touchdowns, with
just seven interceptions.
Contrast those stats
with East Carolina’s problems in the secondary. The Pirates were 82nd
this season in total defense, and 101st against the pass. ECU
gave up over 260 yards of passing offense per game.
Leftwich is coming off
of a spectacular performance in the MAC Championship game against Toledo. In
that loss, the Herd quarterback was 32-52 through the air for 421 yards and
four touchdowns. Toledo won the game 41-36 after Marshall blew a 23-0 lead.
Going into the Toledo
game, the Thundering Herd was riding a ten-game winning streak. Marshall’s
only prior loss this season was to Florida, 49-14, back in the season
Coach Logan feels that
the Pirates will have an advantage, because of the level of competition the
two teams have seen.
“I think we have seen
better, quicker teams on a week-to-week basis,” he said. "That's not to say
that Marshall hasn’t played good teams, but I think the schedule that we
have played will help us in this game.”
Pirates to Exploit Herd Rushing Defense
On the other side of
the ledger, Marshall has struggled stopping the run. And if the Herd
couldn’t stop some of the teams they have seen this year, then Leonard Henry
should have a great GMAC Bowl.
Henry rushed for 1,432
yards this season, but he was held to just 159 yards in the losses to
Louisville and Southern Mississippi. He has seven one-hundred-yard games
this season, and a pair of two-hundred-yard games.
The Pirate strategy
should be to control the clock with Henry, keeping Byron Leftwich and the
Herd’s offense off the field. I’d give Marshall a steady diet of some real
thunder with Leonard Henry, and then I’d slip them a dose or two of Art
This is not Coach
Logan’s favorite strategy. He’s said a number of times that he’d rather get
the football, score and kick off to the other team.
Look for Logan and
company to get Henry started, and then throw in some early play action
passes. Knowing Logan and ECU offensive coordinator Doug Martin, I look for
at least one deep pass in the Pirates first drive, if East Carolina has
decent field position.
However, this is not
the team to get into a shootout with.
Only two quarterbacks
threw for over 4,000 yards this season — Marshall’s Byron Leftwich and
State’s David Carr.
In fact, perhaps the
worse thing that could happen is for the Pirates to get out to a big lead.
East Carolina has struggled in that role all season long. On the other hand,
Marshall pulled the same trick in blowing that 23-0 lead to Toledo in the
MAC title game.
GMAC Bowl Prediction
After a brief visit
with a gypsy and a very cloudy crystal ball, here’s how I see this GMAC Bowl
The Pirates get out to
a quick start and jump out on top 14-0 in the first quarter. Marshall fights
back with three unanswered touchdown passes for a 21-14 lead. Just before
the half, Leonard Henry breaks free on a 56-yard touchdown run to tie the
game at 21-21 at halftime.
In the second half,
Marshall scores a field goal to open the third quarter, and then capitalizes
on a Pirate turnover for a 31-21 lead going into the fourth quarter.
That’s when David
Garrard and company get it rolling. They score early in the quarter on a
42-yard strike from Garrard to Richard Alston. The Pirates get the football
back, and march down the field again, scoring on a Leonard Henry run on a
draw play from 20 yards out.
Byron Leftwich has 1:45
to bring the Thundering Herd a bowl win. Leftwich brings the Herd inside the
Pirate 30 yard line, when he is picked off by Kelly Hardy.
Score: East Carolina 35, Marshall 31
It’s another thriller,
and this time the Pirates are winners!
Let’s hope it goes this
way on Wednesday night.
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