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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
By Brian Bailey

The Interception

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

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The official took off his headset and started back onto the field. It was like a close heavyweight fight. The official was going to name a winner, and in turn name a loser.

Let’s backtrack.

In a thrilling ending, East Carolina had tied Southern Miss on a fourth down run by quarterback James Pinkney. In overtime, the Pirates ran right down the Golden Eagles throats, only to be stopped just short of the goal line, facing fourth down. ECU Carolina kicked a field goal to go up by three.

Southern Miss decided to go for the win on the first play. Golden Eagles quarterback Jeremy Young went deep to his big tight end, Shawn Nelson. The ball seemed to float in the air forever. Travis Williams went up for the interception. Nelson did all he could do to get some type of possession of the football. Both players came down with what they hoped was a victory.

The referees ruled it an interception on the field, and the Pirates' celebration began. But in this day and age of instant replay, the game wasn’t over yet.

I’ve seen many games decided by a replay in some form, but never really like this. Though some have said that the play could have been ruled an incompletion, from my vantage point it was either a win for East Carolina on the interception, or a win for Southern Miss on a catch — a simultaneous reception.

Based on my knowledge of the ECU-Southern Miss series, I was a bit skeptical as the officials took longer and longer to review the tape.

I remember being on the sideline when Southern Miss stole one from East Carolina in 1986. A blind man could have seen the Golden Eagle player with his knee on the ground when he made that infamous forward lateral.

That was the year that Charlie Libretto had rallied ECU, only to see the Golden Eagles complete a Hail Mary, execute an illegal forward pitch by a guy who’s knee was on the ground, and then win the game on a field goal on an untimed down. Southern Miss actually benefited from committing a foul.

Those of you that were there know the story. That play should have been much easier to call then the Travis Williams interception.

So with history against the Pirates, and with the officials taking forever, please forgive the skepticism.

“I sat there and had a great view of it,” said Pirate coach Skip Holtz at his weekly news conference on Monday. “I thought surely they won’t override the call. The longer we sat there and the longer it took, I really began to wonder. Finally, though, when he came back I couldn’t hear anything, but I saw everybody running on the field and knew we had won.”

Holtz now has his club in first place in the East Division of Conference USA with four games to go.

Last year, Central Florida went from worst to first. This year, the Golden Knights are the next obstacle for a great Pirate turnaround in 2006.

“I couldn’t have written a better script for this team,” Holtz continued. “We won on the road, we won at Southern Miss, we played great on defense and we won a close football game. These are all factors that will help this program down the road.”

Former East Carolina coach Steve Logan used to preach that his team had to be ready to win on the last play of the game. Some fans took exception to that, but it’s a philosophy that Coach Holtz says has some merit.

“I think you have to prepare your football team to win that way,” said Holtz. “You have to prepare your team for a 60-minute war that could go right down to the wire.

"If it doesn’t, then that’s great. I love those games when you can come in at halftime and eat hotdogs and drink colas. Those are great games to be associated with. We’re just not fortunate to have those games yet.

"I think every game we play will be a dog fight and we had better be ready to play a 60-minute football game!”

The Pirates go to Orlando as a 6-point favorite against the 2-6 Golden Knights. The much improved Pirate defense will be tested by a UCF team that rolled up 530 yards in a loss to Houston this week. George O’Leary’s team will move the football. It will be another stiff test for Greg Hudson and his defense.

Pirate Gold

The Pirates go for back to back “golden” wins this week. First it was the overtime win over the Golden Eagles. Next, it’s a match up with the Golden Knights.

The Pirates also have a little “golden” in strength coach Mike Golden, whose work continues to pay dividends with East Carolina's strong finishes.

In the spirit of Halloween, Coach Golden’s middle name is Damien. Just thought I’d throw that out there… Happy Halloween!

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

04/21/2008 07:03:27 PM


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