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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, December 8, 2009

By Brian Bailey

Pirates and fate make formidable team

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.


Replay Monday night's Brian Bailey Show with guests PHIL PETTY, HAROLD GRAETER and SILKY SULLIVAN. Eastern North Carolina's longest running sports radio call-in show airs each Monday night at 7 p.m. on Pirate Radio 1250-AM and 930-AM.
Replay Show
Pirate Radio Home Page


Bailey: Pirates and fate make formidable team
O'Brien: ECU has a hot commodity
BVL: C-USA Bowl Lineup & Scoreboard
BVL: BCS Standings
BVL: Harris, Associated Press & Coaches Polls
Myatt: Bucs brace for Keenum, Cougars

Who would have ever thought this crazy 2009 football schedule would provide East Carolina fans with such a trifecta of games at the end?

The Pirates didn’t play on a Saturday for a month. East Carolina was a television attraction on a Tuesday, a Sunday and a Thursday in consecutive weeks.

Then it was back to Saturdays for what Pirate coach Skip Holtz termed a “single elimination tournament.”

Those three games on three straight Saturdays would send the Pirates to a second straight trip to Memphis and the Liberty Bowl. Arkansas now stands in the way of some “unfinished” business for Coach Holtz and his Pirates.

I don’t know if Coach Holtz carries a rabbit’s foot, but I do know that a couple of situations late in the season might have beaten other teams.

In the Southern Miss game, Pirate punter Matt Dodge tries for a first down and gets stuffed well short of the first down. Holtz took responsibility, though Dodge was supposed to read that the Golden Eagles were in “punt safe.” Dodge was supposed to kick the football away.

That play might have beaten most teams. But it didn’t beat East Carolina.

Of course, C.J. Wilson would go on to make one of the biggest plays in Pirate football history with the blocked extra point and return for the two-point conversion. The Pirates won the game 25-20.

Then in the Conference USA championship, the Pirates faced fourth and a yard, desperate to keep the football away from Case Keenum and the Houston offense.

East Carolina quarterback Patrick Pinkney was told not to snap the football. Instead, Pinkney got the snap, the Pirates were stuffed short of the first down, and Houston had the ball back.

Again, this type of play would have certainly come back to haunt a lesser team, but that near disaster also turned out OK when Travis Simmons and Van Eskridge combined on a pick in the Cougars' end zone.

In the end it was a thrilling 38-32 Pirate victory and a second straight Conference USA championship. Destiny was the Pirates' date to the dance.

Now, the focus will be on Memphis. Just like in 1995 when East Carolina returned to Memphis with a purpose. That year the Pirates made up for a loss to Illinois in 1994 by beating Stanford.

This time the Razorbacks of Arkansas provide the opposition.

“We’ve got unfinished business baby,” said an excited Dominique Lindsey after Saturday’s win in the conference title game.

Kentucky beat East Carolina in last year’s Liberty Bowl, 25-19. Arkansas may be an even bigger challenge this season. The Pirates have had pretty good success as a big underdog in a bowl game — just ask Boise State.

For Patrick Pinkney, it’s one more start as the Pirate quarterback. Pinkney is certainly playing his best football of the season. Now the sixth-year senior gets one more bowl game.

“I didn’t care what bowl we went to,” said Pinkney. “I just really wanted this championship. We do have some unfinished business in Memphis. We’ll prepare hard for that game. We want to finish strong, baby!”

I’ve been very fortunate through the years to get a chance to cover East Carolina University athletics. I’ve seen the highs and the lows, and I agree with Coach Holtz that I’ll have memories for a lifetime from this past Saturday.

“It was a totally different feel then from a year ago,” Holtz said. “A year ago you’re on the road, at Tulsa. You got to see the joy and the jubilation in your players. But to look up and see that fan base, to know just what a role they have played in us being where we are right now.

"We are undefeated in the conference at home at 5-0. They (the fans) had a huge part in that. To celebrate this game, with our players, in Dowdy-Ficklen, at home — pretty awesome experience. I’ve got some mental pictures that will go to my grave with me!”

Keep the light on Silky! The Pirate Nation is headed back to Beale Street to welcome in the New Year at the Liberty Bowl.


E-mail Brian Bailey.

Brian Bailey Archives

12/08/2009 02:04 AM


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