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From the Anchor Desk
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
By Brian Bailey

Opener was stirring for all concerned

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.


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Bailey: Opener was stirring for all concerned
O'Brien: Defense providing image makeover
Audio: Holtz UNC-CH game week press conference...
Game Center: Virginia Tech 17, ECU 7
Box Score/Statistics
Audio: Holtz & Pinkney post-game...
Myatt: ECU influences plot in Blacksburg
O'Brien: Pirates' stature enhanced in loss
Monroe: Kevin's Keys to the Game
ECU Media Relations/AP Game Recap
C-USA Standings, Scores, Schedule
ECU Schedule, Scores, Attendance, Links

My trip to Blacksburg to cover the East Carolina-Virginia Tech football game is one that I will never forget.

I always look forward to the start of the football season and I knew this particular opener would really be special.

It didn’t start out all that great, though.

I arrived on campus at about noon on Friday with the idea of doing a couple of interviews with some students to get their feelings on the pregame ceremonies and the game itself.

I received a somewhat cool reception from several student groups as I stood between a couple of buildings near the drill field on campus. Several students refused interviews and were outright rude.

I was a little confused until I talked with one student about a possible interview.

“You have to understand,” said the student. “We’ve had hundreds of cameras on our campus since the shootings. Everyday they were here. At first we understood, but they kept coming and we as a student body were just sick of the media.”

“We’ve been through hell,” he concluded.

The student also said that some members of the media were sneaking into buildings and classes, all to get pictures of the Tech students.

With that knowledge in hand my interviews went much more smoothly. I started each conversation by apologizing for my media brethren, and I made a several friends from the Tech student body.

I can only imagine what that April day must have felt like. Virginia Tech has a beautiful campus that is tucked away in between the mountains of southwestern Virginia. There is no way that something like that could happen in Blacksburg. Somehow, it did.

I then went to the memorial at the drill field for the 32 slain victims. It was very moving but it was so unfair. Those 32 people should have been a part of that beautiful Friday afternoon on campus, getting ready for the game with East Carolina.

The ceremony on Saturday was very well done.

The video tribute brought many in the capacity crowd to tears. It was a beautiful piece with pictures and music that literally gave you a sense of the pain and healing that was so much a part of the campus for the last four months.

The East Carolina check presentation was also special. Unfortunately, the television audience didn’t get to see it live. After the presentation, the Tech crowd chanted “Thank You” on one side, and “Pirates” on the other. It was loud and it was a powerful show of gratitude.

Both teams ran out onto the field with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blaring through the speakers. It was a day of sportsmanship. Members of the teams and coaches met again at midfield to shake hands before the game. They did the same thing afterwards.

As for the game, I think Pirate coach Skip Holtz did a brilliant job of getting most of the general population believing that his team didn’t have a chance. I’m sure there are hard core Pirate fans that said they always believed, but I think the general consensus around town was that this would be a long day for the purple and gold.

The only group that really believed East Carolina could win wore the colors. Holtz had his football team believing that they could play with and beat the nation’s ninth-ranked football team.

The Pirates didn’t win the game but this team won plenty of respect around the nation. From the gift of $100,000 to Hokie Hope, to the Pirate defense that gave up just 33 yards on 31 carries, this game was about gaining respect.

There are no moral victories.

Coach Holtz doesn’t believe in them.

However, he wanted his young team to know that they can play with anyone in the nation. Holtz never speaks to his team as a group on the field, especially after a road game.

This time he did. He told them that they DID belong. He told them to continue to believe, and that good things would happen.

They almost happened against Virginia Tech.

It was a trip that I’ll never forget. Hopefully it will turn out to be the start of a season long journey to remember for this East Carolina football team!


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04/21/2008 07:06:45 PM


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