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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
By Brian Bailey

Turnabout sends season in new direction

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Trailing 20-7, the game and the season teetered in the balance at halftime.

Memphis had ripped the East Carolina defense to shreds in the first half.

The Pirates had missed two field goals and had fumbled at the two. This could have been a 20-20 ball game, but it wasn’t.

I’ve seen teams turn things around and play better in the second half, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like East Carolina’s defensive play in the second half against Memphis.

The Pirates were absolutely dominant on defense in that second stanza. Not only did ECU stop Memphis cold, but the Pirate defense scored two touchdowns on its own. The first one by Zack Slate gave East Carolina its first lead, while the second one by Kasey Ross put the game away.

Holtz said the difference was a combination of scheme and just getting guys to make plays in that second half.

“We decided to (go) back to what our guys know best,” said Holtz on Monday at his weekly news conference. “We went back to our base defense. We also told guys to make some plays. I told them that I watch ESPN on Saturday nights and teams all over are making plays on the highlights. We just had to make some plays.”

The Pirates did that, putting together a virtual SportsCenter in scoring 28 unanswered points in the win.

Credit the Pirate fans for a nice outing on Saturday night. I thought there were close to 40,000 in attendance. Most of the crowd stayed after halftime when it would have been just as easy to head to the exits early.

What followed in the second half was a little “old school” Pirate football. The Pirates played with a chip on their shoulder, and in the end the Memphis Tigers never knew what hit them!

It was a great night to be at the stadium.

Mountaineers come calling

The Pirate celebration ended sometime late Saturday night. Now, 4th-ranked West Virginia heads to Greenville for an ESPN2 match up on Saturday.

East Carolina dropped a close one to the Mountaineers last year, falling 20-15. In that game the Pirates had the football twice in the fourth quarter with a chance to win the game.

This year, West Virginia comes to town as a 21-point favorite to beat ECU.

The Mountaineers are loaded, but this Pirate team has a little confidence and will be playing in front of a raucous Saturday afternoon crowd.

“I certainly don’t think it’s a deal where you roll the balls out knowing that we have no shot,” said Holtz. “We’ve got a shot. Granted, it’s not a huge shot because this is the 4th-ranked team in the country. They haven’t had a close game yet. This is a very talented football team. Still, we have a great opportunity in front of us playing the 4th-ranked team in the country.”

If the Pirates are to hang with West Virginia they’ll have to get off to a good start. If the Mountaineers go up early, they’re the type of team to continue their roll, and not let you up for air.

The Pirates have to play a near perfect game this week. East Carolina can’t fumble at the two-yard line. They can’t give up big penalties in key spots. It is a very difficult assignment, but one that everyone at ECU seems to be excited about.

“Last year we went up there and played out of fear more than anything else,” said Holtz. “We just didn’t want to get beat 55-0. Yet, we went up there and really competed and had a chance. We tackled well in that game and overall we played very well.”

Holtz admits that the Mountaineers team that beat his Pirates 20-15 last year isn’t the same one his squad will see this Saturday.

“They were running a two-quarterback system and were trying to bring everything in tighter,” Holtz continued. “Then they started spreading that young quarterback out and really started to come around. The team we saw last year wasn’t the same squad that beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.”

Big time football comes to Greenville this weekend. A Pirate upset would go a long way toward keeping big time football in town!

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04/21/2008 07:06:02 PM


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