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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
By Brian Bailey

Resurrected program getting its just rewards

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It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this kind of look in an East Carolina football player’s eyes.

It started on Saturday night with Pirate quarterback James Pinkney. For Pinkney, it was the culmination of a roller-coaster ride of a career that will now conclude with a post season bowl game.

Pinkney had come a long way from losing his eligibility and bussing tables at Logan’s Roadhouse.

“We needed this game,” Pinkney shouted. “This was a big game for us because of the rivalry. It was big for all of North Carolina. This was a great atmosphere, I love it!”

The big play in Saturday night’s 21-16 East Carolina win over N.C. State came just before the half, when Pinkney hooked up with Aundrae Allison on that 53-yard lightning strike that turned all of the momentum the Pirates' way.

“This was a great feeling,” Allison said. “I think we owe a lot to the Pirate Nation. It’s just great to come in here and finish this season off with a victory.”

One of the other heroes on Saturday night was Brandon Fractious. Fractious found himself in Skip Holtz’s doghouse in the second half of the Rice game. But Fractious helped ECU control the football in the fourth quarter against State. It was also Fractious that scored the clinching touchdown on a 12-yard run.

“It was all on the line,” said Fractious. “The team, the unity, believing in each other and never giving up; we were just able to pull it through."

Any mention of East Carolina’s win over N.C. State, though, has to include stellar comments for the defense.

The Wolfpack featured great backs in the likes of Toney Baker and Andre Brown. East Carolina would have dearly loved to have had either one of these two when they were recruited three years ago, especially Brown, the former star at J.H. Rose High School.

Greg Hudson’s defense put the clamps on the two former North Carolina prep stars, holding State to just 107 yards rushing.

The Pirates gave up an early touchdown after a botched fake punt attempt near mid-field. State didn’t score another touchdown until the final seconds.

“This was a great win for us,” said Marcus Hands, who had three tackles in the game. “The defense played great, but the offense did, too. We had great support here and we came together for a big win.”

With the win, the Pirates get set for the team’s first postseason bowl game since the 2001 season.

Conference USA will officially announce the league’s bowl selections later this week. The word from East Carolina is that the Pirates will likely head to Birmingham for the Bowl on Dec. 23. That game is a 1 p.m. ET (ESPN2) kickoff and would pit ECU against a team from the Big East Conference.

This would present a great scenario for the Pirate Nation. A great showing from the fans and a big win might just go a long way in showing the Big East that East Carolina would be an asset to the league.

The Big East will not expand just for the sake of adding a team to ease scheduling. The league would, however, possibly take a football program that might help to strengthen its own ties to the BCS.

Credit Skip Holtz and his staff for moving East Carolina back to respectability in college football. Holtz is far from through and hopes winning seasons become the norm for the Pirate Nation.

Think about it. The Pirates finished 7-5 against a schedule that included 8 bowl teams from the year before, and seven bowl winners. Think back to the UAB game. That could have easily been at 8th win. How about Rice? This Pirate team was just a couple of plays from going 9-3 against a top notch schedule.

It should be a great holiday season. It’s always fun to prepare for the holidays around a bowl game.

Unpacking my Christmas ornaments this weekend, I once again ran across my “peach ornament” that I got from the football team back in 1991, in honor of the Peach Bowl that season.

I wonder if I’ll get a Papa John’s pizza to put on the tree this year.


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04/21/2008 07:07:31 PM


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