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Henry's Highlights
Monday, October 17, 2005

By Henry Hinton

Football program on cusp of big season


7:00-9:00 a.m.

Tune in on the radio or catch the live feed of today's Talk of the Town with Henry Hinton:


7:00-8:00 p.m.

Tune in on the radio or catch the live feed of tonight's Brian Bailey Show, with guest Rick Smith:



ECU 24, SMU 17

from Coach
Skip Holtz:


Use whatever cliché you like. Winning begets winning. Nothing succeeds like success. There is no question the East Carolina Pirates now feel they are good enough for a huge finish to the 2005 season.

East Carolina took another giant step toward respectability with the 24-17 win over Southern Methodist on Saturday in Dallas. The victory ends a 10-game road losing streak. More importantly it furthers the notion that ECU can play with any and all league teams.

It could be argued that the only real disappointing blemish to this edition of the Pirates is the lopsided defeat by Southern Miss, a loss which was aided by five turnovers.

Skip Holtz’s first team could create some fireworks in Conference USA, yet.

While SMU does not necessarily represent the upper crust in Conference USA, the Mustangs came into Saturday’s game with impressive wins over Texas Christian and UAB. They have been competitive against all comers with the exception of a blowout at the hands of Texas A&M.

The idea that the Pirates have played the toughest part of their schedule and should be competitive with all teams remaining seems to have legs at this point of the season.

Saturday’s victory was particularly satisfying for the defensive coaching staff. After his secondary picked off four Jerad Romo passes, including the big one by Pierre Parker that led to the final ECU score, Skip Holtz acknowledged the job by defensive coordinator Greg Hudson and Rick Smith, who coaches the defensive backs. (Note: Rick Smith will be the featured guest on tonight's Brian Bailey Show on Talk 1070 AM from 7-8 p.m. Click here for the live Internet feed or listen to the archive of the show later.)

“Rick’s really doing a great job with those secondary guys,” said Holtz. “They’re believing. They’re confident. And you know what? This stuff works. The fundamentals and the coverages we’re playing, the checks we’re making… I think as much as anything else they are buying into the system because they are seeing the results right now.”

SMU had just one sustained drive resulting in a score all day. It came early in the third period. They took the second half kick-off and drove 75 yards in 14 plays but settled for a 22-yard field goal.

Their two touchdowns came on drives of just 4 and 24 yards. The first was the product of a James Pinkney interception and the second came after Ryan Dougherty had to rush a punt out of his own end zone, giving SMU the ball on the Pirate 24.

Speaking of Pinkney, that first quarter interception was about the only mistake in his body of work for the day. Otherwise the junior Pirate quarterback ran for 42 yards and three touchdowns and completed 15 of 22 passes for 225 yards.

Pinkney took over sole possession of fourth place on the ECU all time passing list. He has now passed for more than 200 yards in 9 of his last 11 games. He also is now just one of four Pirate quarterbacks to throw for more than 4,000 yards in a career. In Saturday's game, he also tied Marcus Crandall for 200-plus-yard passing performances. Only David Garrard has more.

As ECU now heads for another road game at Memphis, expectations continue to grow. The Pirates would have to continue to improve to put themselves in bowl contention. With the defense playing well and the offense taking advantage of some extraordinary athletes, it could happen.

With remaining games at Memphis, Tulsa and Marshall and home games with Central Florida and UAB, it is totally conceivable that this team could get there. ECU now finds itself tied for first place in C-USA East with three other teams.

Areas of concern continue to be the play of the offensive line with regard to the running game. While the numbers were dramatically better on Saturday (127 net rushing yards) as compared to a week ago versus Rice (just 104 rushing yards), real estate between the tackles continues to be at a premium. It should be noted, however, that the line continues to do a great job in pass protection.

Special teams play also needs to continue to get better if the Pirates are going to challenge the league in the second half of the season.

All in all Skip Holtz and his staff continue to do an amazing rebuilding job and have the program in a position to be a force in Conference USA as we head down the stretch.

If the Pirates can find a way to win their third straight this week in Elvis-land it would set up the biggest game in Greenville in many years as George O’Leary’s Central Florida Golden Knights invade Dowdy-Ficklen for homecoming on October 29th.

Learning to win is another issue. Holtz was disturbed at the attitude of his team at halftime in Dallas after taking a 10-point lead into the locker room.

Perhaps the best thing that could have happened did. The Mustangs ran off 10 unanswered points in the third period, which served as a statement to the young Pirates that “You ain’t good enough to cruise.”

At the same time, this team now takes the field expecting to win. Ask any coach the key to a turnaround and he’ll tell you that nothing makes winners out of a team like actually winning. It’s a matter of believing you will prevail while doing the things necessary to get there. This team may have what it takes.

Is the magic back? Let’s just say we’re all beginning to feel its return and it feels good.

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04/21/2008 07:04:18 PM

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