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From the Anchor Desk
Monday, October 10, 2006
By Brian Bailey

Tulsa is THE game

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Replay Coach Skip Holtz' remarks from his Monday media luncheon. (Recorded by Brian Bailey) ...

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East Carolina has had great crowds to date for non-conference games with West Virginia and Virginia. The Pirate Nation has come out in force, providing a huge lift to this team.

The problem is that this is the week the Pirates probably need that lift the most. Tulsa comes to town as the defending Conference USA champion and winner of the Liberty Bowl last season.

It’s the biggest problem that East Carolina faces in Conference USA. There is local and regional interest in the likes of West Virginia, Virginia and in future games with N.C. State and North Carolina.

But C-USA is the Pirates' league and we all have to understand that!

This is the game the Pirates need to win to get respect in the conference. This is the one we should all be excited about, the champs visiting ECU for what should be a great game.

This week, though, the partisan forces will have to overcome some obstacles. It starts with the student body. The students have been a great part of the game atmosphere so far this season, but this Saturday is a part of fall break.

That means anyone and everyone who is not leaving town needs to be in Dowdy-Ficklen stadium on Saturday. Coach Skip Holtz has gone out of his way to thank the students for their support. This time the students that stay face a real challenge.

Tulsa comes to town with wins over Navy and Southern Miss on its resume. The Golden Hurricane has suffered just one loss, that on the road at BYU.

If East Carolina wants a shot at the league title, this game is a must. The Pirates already have that loss to UAB from September.

The Golden Hurricane is an outstanding team, and really played well last year in the C-USA championship game in Orlando. But, as the saying goes, to be the best you have to beat the best, and that will be the Pirates' challenge this week.

Last year, East Carolina kicked a late first half field goal and went into the locker room with a 13-10 halftime lead. The Pirates had to feel pretty good about themselves with that lead at the break.

The second half, though, was a Tulsa blowout. When that Hurricane had blown through, the Pirates had given up 35 second half points and were on the wrong end of a 45-13 score.

“It was by far our worst defeat last year,” said Holtz at his weekly news conference on Monday. [Replay press conference audio.] “I really think it was one of the better football teams that we played last year. They have some outstanding players, and I know that last year’s outcome has our players' attention this year.”

Chris Johnson should be back in the line-up for East Carolina this week, though Brandon Fractious and Brandon Simmons both earned more playing time with their performances against Virginia. Some are calling them the “Brandon Tandem,” while others have suggested the “Killer B’s.” Whatever you call them, understand that the Pirate running game was the difference against the Cavaliers.

“I thought they both played well,” said Holtz. “Life is so much easier when you’re calling plays and it’s second and six instead of second and eleven.”

“Simmons gives us a dimension that we lost with the injury to Dominique Lindsay," added Holtz. "We need a strong back to stick it in there, and he did a nice job.”

Tulsa comes to town as a 2-point favorite to beat East Carolina.

Somehow, someway, everyone needs to get the word out that this is a HUGE game for East Carolina. It may not have the appeal that a visit from a West Virginia from the Big East or a Virginia from the ACC has, but this is ECU’s conference.

It’s a conference the Pirates have never won, and they need a win Saturday to stay in the race.

Tell a friend. Educate them. Convince them that this is a big game.

Coach Holtz and his team deserve another great crowd at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. It could very well be the difference in winning and losing!

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04/21/2008 07:07:59 PM


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