Pirate Notebook No. 521
Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien

BCS was within ECUís grasp


BCS was within ECUís grasp


C-USA at a glance: Bowl scoreboard


Transfers pace Panthers past Pirates


Audio: Coaches/players post-game...


This week in college football history


Records abound for 2013 Pirates


ECU steps up at gut-check time


Game day photo gallery...


Audio: Coach Ruff Presser

East Caorlina football coach Ruffin McNeill and players Derrell Johnson and Vintavious Cooper met with the media after the Pirates defeated Ohio 37-20 in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl (recorded by W.A. Myatt; file photo by W.A. Myatt): Select Clip...

McGhin family pedigree goes on


ECU football recruiting thumbnails...


By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

View the Mobile Alpha version of this page.

Ten-win seasons donít happen often at East Carolina. Make that twice in the programís history to be exact.

The first was 1991 when the Pirates notched 11 wins and finished ranked 9th nationally after beating N.C. State on New Yearís in Atlanta. That was the memorable ďWe BelieveĒ season, one that most programs will never match.

The most recent was clinched last week in St. Petersburg, FL, when ECU finished off Ohio 37-20 in the Beef ĎOí Bradyís Bowl. It capped a 10-3 season that included blowout road victories over in-state rivals North Carolina and N.C. State.

That the Pirates won ten games and throttled the Tar Heels and Wolfpack are accomplishments that canít be overlooked. Last anyone checked, that trio of milestones has never been experienced by the program in one season, 1991 included.

The way East Carolina bullied both North Carolina and N.C. State from start to finish will be remembered for years. As far as athletics gratification goes in Greenville, those indelible moments are difficult to beat.

But if you closely monitored East Carolinaís season from the opening snap to the final whistle, you canít help but think that this ten-win bunch could have done more. Much more.

If you ask Pirates Coach Ruffin McNeill, his staff, and the players, odds are they would agree.

If ever a realistic opportunity presented itself for ECU to crash the BCS party, this season was it. The schedule was far more forgiving than originally anticipated, with each game on it winnable when observed individually.

Five points and a handful of blown opportunities were all that separated the Pirates from beating an average Virginia Tech bunch. After easily carving through the Hokies defense on the gameís opening drive, the ECU offense otherwise couldnít get out of its own way.

Overall, the day was defined by head-scratching mistakes and missed opportunities in a game the Pirates should have won.

In a triple overtime loss at Tulane, the ECU offense spent most of the day sleepwalking and performing with little sense of urgency. Collectively the Pirates played with relative nonchalance until falling behind 19-9 with nine minutes remaining.

The ease with which the Pirates moved the chains from the fourth quarter on demonstrated the wide talent gap that existed between the two teamsí personnel.

And while Marshall had little difficulty dismantling ECU, youíll have a hard time convincing me the Herd is the better team. Truth is, the Pirates never appeared ready for what they saw and seemed to check out early.

The point here is not to understate the achievements of a very good year or to suggest that McNeill and his staff didnít do a good job preparing the Pirates in the preseason or during it.

For the offense to pile up the numbers it did despite the alarmingly high turnover at the receiver position suggests otherwise. So does the amazing turnaround the Pirates made defensively after spending the last three seasons as a punch line.

The program, under McNeillís direction, is undoubtedly trending in the right direction.

After closing the season with a comfortable win over Ohio in the Beef ĎOí Bradyís Bowl, the Pirates clearly arenít letting what could have been stand in the way of celebrating what they accomplished in 2013. Nor should they.

But you canít deny that ó despite accomplishing much this season ó there were more headlines for the taking. More than any other year since the BCS's inception, attaining its riches presented itself as a realistic scenario for ECU.

E-mail Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien Archives

12/31/2013 01:43 AM