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Bailey's Take on the GMAC Bowl

From the Anchor Desk
Friday, December 21, 2001

By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9

Hang on for a Very Different Off-season



It is very difficult to write a column when you are at a total loss for words.

I watched in horror as East Carolina once again blew a big lead in a football game. It was really unbelievable, but then again, would you have expected anything different from this team?

It had happened all year long. The Pirates jump out on top, roll out to a huge lead, and then try NOT to lose. It worked a couple of times ó barely ó but it failed miserably against Louisville and Southern Miss.

I have never been, nor will I ever be, a Pirate basher. When you work in an area as long as I have, you become a bit of a homer. That doesnítí mean that you canít be critical, but you wonít see this sportscaster calling for anyoneís head.

With that said, changes have to come, and come quickly.

Pirate Coach Steve Logan has to change, whether it is in philosophies or coaches, or whatever. The headman is accountable, and Logan has to carry the burden of this underachieving football team.

Does this mean that Logan should be fired? I say no. But Logan has to make changes on his staff, and he has to change some of the programís directions.

Teams just donít blow 30 point leads in the second half. And when they do, it has usually been more of a fluke then anything else. Tell me the last team to have the same type of personality that this Pirate team has displayed this season.

With a 38-8 lead, the premium should have been on running out the clock and keeping the football on the ground. So, after a turnover free first half, the Pirates hook up with the Thundering Herd on not one, but two different interception returns for touchdowns.

I realize that hindsight is 20-20, but I donít know if I would have thrown the football at all in the second half ó until I absolutely had to. I would have dared Marshall to put 10 or 11 men in the box, to try and stop the run.

When I did throw, I would have thrown deep, so if the pass was intercepted it might turn out much like a punt.

So donít blame the Pirate secondary for everything in this loss.

Everybody wants to know what went wrong.

Last year, with Paul Jette coaching the defensive backs, the Pirates showed marked improvement in the secondary. Jette had previously been the team's defensive coordinator, but he seemed to take the demotion well as he went about the business of tutoring a young group of cornerbacks and safeties.

After the season, Jette moved back to his old Texas stomping grounds, taking a position on the Baylor coaching staff.

So, Jette leaves and the Pirates go to a ďSwiss cheeseĒ look in the secondary.

Jeff Connors was an emotional leader for this team. Who took that spot this season? Did anyone see any emotion in the second half of the Louisville game? The Southern Miss game? The bowl game?

Have you ever seen a team with this type of philosophy, in the NFL, the college ranks, or even Pop Warner?

How can a team be so good, and then be so bad in the same four-hour time slot?

Changes are Needed Somewhere

Whatís the answer?

It begins with Coach Logan, who has to take a long look at not only his staff, but also his philosophies.

How about a stance where you donít have to win the game on the last play? How about a mentality where you donít play to the level of your competition? How about playing Wake Forest at home, expecting to win, and then beating the Deacons by three touchdowns!

I am a Logan fan, but Iíve always wondered why he's so secretive about his team. Cameras arenít allowed at scrimmages or even after the first 15 minutes of practice.

In fact, the teamís walk through at the GMAC Bowl was closed, so I guess it wasnít the cameras that caused his team to give up 64 points.

Down the line, this game may prove to be a real positive for the Pirates. Had East Carolina hung on to win, then perhaps some of the perplexing issues this team experienced might have shifted gradually to the backburner.

Those issues, though, are now squarely in the forefront screaming to be dealt with.

This is a program that has had a track record of overachieving, a program that was ranked 9th in the nation after the 1991 football season.

In the years since that 'I Believe' season, which happen to parallel Logan's tenure as head coach, the program has established some strong fabric and has generally maintained a reputation for overachieving ó with an unexplainable loss thrown in every now and then to muddy up big dreams.

But ten years later, this squad clearly underachieved. Yet, itís been told that expectations were too high.

Wednesday nightís loss was like so many other games for the Pirates this year. It was really hard to take.

Changes are coming to Pirate football. There are no easy answers, but there are lots of questions.

Hang on for a very different off-season at ECU.

Send an e-mail message to Brian Bailey.

Click here to dig into Brian Bailey's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 01:20:01 AM

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