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Bailey's Take on Pirate Sports

From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
By Brian Bailey

Pirates sailing into unknown waters at Wake


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East Carolina gets set to hit the road for the first time on Saturday.

The Pirates travel to Wake Forest to take on a Deacons team desperate to put one in the win column. Wake is 0-2 after losing at Nebraska Saturday night.

I think Jim Grobe is one of the top coaches in the ACC. He’s 4-0 against East Carolina as the head coach at Wake Forest. So far in ’05, though, his Deacons have been a disappointment.

Vanderbilt upset Wake Forest 24-20 on that first Thursday night of the college football season. Vandy then beat Arkansas, so the Commodores are certainly one of the early season surprises in college football.

Oddsmakers really liked Wake Forest’s chances to beat Nebraska. The Cornhuskers were just a 6 ½ point favorite in the game. The final score was 31-3, but Nebraska’s defense did most of that damage with three returns for touchdowns.

Wake Forest actually out gained Nebraska 247-234, but four turnovers doomed the Deacons' cause. On one play, the Nebraska linebacker simply swiped the pigskin away from the Wake running back and raced for a ‘Husker touchdown.

Give credit to those oddsmakers. Without the three defensive scores, you’re looking at a 10-3 ballgame. That’s pretty close to a 6 ½ point spread.

'Road Game' motivator

This first road game of the Skip Holtz era reminds me of a commercial that Holtz’s Dad, Lou, did for Marriott.

The legendary coach talked about “road games” in the spot for Marriott. Among those hired to help promote the properties in the same line of commercials for Courtyard by Marriott, Marriott Hotels and Resorts and Residence Inn were former 49ers quarterback Steve Young, Oakland Raiders wide receiver Jerry Rice, Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden and former Bears' coach Mike Ditka.

“He brought a little bit on intensity to the spots,” said the younger Holtz. “He brought a little bit of intensity about a road game and how important it is. He had fun with it.”

I loved the spot, especially when Coach would say, “It’s us against the world.”

They were great commercials.

McMahon a “special” coach

Special teams coach Greg McMahon was my guest on Talk 1070 and Cable 7 on Monday night.

I always enjoy my hour with the assistant coaches. McMahon was a natural and gave us a great insight as to what goes on with the special teams.

We joked that there was that one little hiccup in the win over Duke, as the Pirates did give up a 100-yard kick-off return. But as I said before, overall the special teams were really good against the Devils. If they continue to play like that, I believe the Pirates will win their share of games this season. Special teams are most certainly that important.

Coach McMahon spent 13 years on the staff at Illinois before coming to East Carolina. He did an outstanding job in our on-air interview, answering some great questions from our callers.

In particular, Coach McMahon explained the thinking behind receiving the “sky” kicks, also called “mortar” kicks.

“We want the football at the 35-yard line,” McMahon explained. “If they are going to kick it up there, then we’ll simply call a fair-catch and take it right there.”

McMahon also said consideration would be given to moving Chris Johnson or Travis Williams up a few yards if the “sky” kicks continue. The bottom line is that the Pirates want to start at the 35-yard line if they get the chance.

It should be a good game on Saturday in Winston-Salem. It’s a good in-state game for East Carolina. Coach Holtz gave his team a goal of being state champion. The Pirates can finish 2-0 in-state with a victory.

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02/23/2007 01:32:03 AM

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