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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
By Brian Bailey

From one shootout to the next

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.


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Audio: Skip Holtz Monday Press Conference
Bailey: From one shootout to the next
BVL: Harris Interactive College Football Poll
Denny O'Brien's weekly Harris Poll ballot

I stated in my live television report Saturday night that I can’t remember watching a game in which one team ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, while the other team ran the second half kickoff back for a TD.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a football team turn the football over five times in a quarter, either. Think about it. Sometimes you don’t even get five possessions in a quarter, much less get the chance to give out five gifts.

Dowdy-Ficklen was rocking to the tune of the 52-38 win over Central Florida on Saturday night. It is a win that puts East Carolina right back in the fight for the East Division title in Conference USA.

The Pirates have scored 89 points in their last two games. Next up is that cross-country trip to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX.

UTEP has scored 96 points in its last two games, 148 in its last three. All were victories, including two within C-USA.

I asked Coach Skip Holtz if he expected a high scoring game this time out.

“From a defensive standpoint, you certainly don’t,” said Holtz smiling. “I don’t think (defensive coordinator) Greg Hudson is looking at it that way.”

“As a head coach, though," Holtz continued, "you have to look at this game with the possibility that you may have to score a lot of points. They have scored a bunch of points. They have great balance as a football team. They like to spread things out and that gives a lot of teams problems.”

East Carolina is also a bit banged up on the defensive side of the football in areas that could really cost the Pirates this week.

“I’m really concerned about some of the injuries this week.” Holtz said. “We have three linebackers that could possibly be out, plus Marcus Hands is struggling with his injury.”

I talked to Marcus this past Saturday night. He hated not being able to play, but he told me he thought he could make the trip to UTEP.

This week’s journey to El Paso is the second longest football trip in school history at 1,905 miles.

I was a member of the traveling party for the longest trip in school history. That was back in 1993, when the Pirates traveled to play the University of Washington. It was a 3,049-mile adventure.

That was certainly a trip that I’ll never forget. The Pirates were playing with a brand new quarterback, and were totally beaten up as a team in a 35-0 loss.

The plane that we came back in had about 90 seats for 90 members of the traveling party. (My numbers may be off a bit, but the point is that there was barely a seat for each person.)

The Pirates sustained so many serious injuries that we had guys lying in rows and in seats all over the plane. Many of us stood around for most of the flight, trying to give the guys as much room as possible. It was by far the longest trip I’ve ever been on!

Hopefully, this trip won’t be nearly as hard on the team. It will, however, be tough, both getting there and getting home.

“It’s hard because it’s in the middle of the season,” said Holtz. “If it were after a bye week, or the first game of the year, it wouldn’t be that bad. A lot of people probably take four-hour plane trips all the time and don’t think anything of it, but I bet they're not 6-6 and 340 pounds. It does take a toll for sure.”

With the X’s and O’s aside, Holtz's big concern this week is with the frame of mind of his football team.

“We’ve had quite a ride and I do worry about the team emotionally,” continued Holtz. “This is a young team, and so we will continue to make Tuesdays and Wednesdays very physical. We’ll work them as hard as we can, and whoever is left standing, we’ll get on the plane Friday and head to UTEP.”

The Pirates can’t afford an emotional letdown. This team has fought to get back into the division race in Conference USA.

Let’s hope the Pirates head west fully loaded for what should be a shootout with the Miners.


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04/21/2008 07:04:42 PM


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