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Insights and Observations

Henry's Highlights
Wednesday, September 6, 2006

By Henry Hinton

No surprises in loss but bright spots emerge

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The script for the East Carolina-Navy game could have been written in advance of kickoff. For once, all the pundits were right. The game would be decided by turnovers. It was.

Unfortunate but true, the one Pirate turnover probably changed the outcome of the game.

At the very least, it changed the momentum enough for the Midshipmen to use their ďgrind it outĒ option to control the rest of the game.

Give credit where it is due. The ECU offense was dazzling at times. James Pinkney completed passes while rolling to his right, rolling to his left, eluding would-be sackers and even a few sitting in the pocket.

The receiving corps was as good as advertised. Maybe even a little better. It was good to see somebody other than Audrae Allison get the ball on critical downs. In addition to Bobby Good, Phillip Henry and Kevin Roach, there were a few surprises. The much talked about arrival of Jamar Bryant, along with another newcomer, Steven Rogers, adds to the potential of this offense.

The running game also went according to the script. An inexperienced offensive line will have to grow up fast for it to get better.

What did we learn about the ECU defense in Annapolis? Not much.

The Navy offense is so unorthodox as compared to the rest of the college football world these days it is hard to project where this defense can go based on last Saturday's performance.

Speaking of Navyís running game, did anyone other than me want to scream while watching them clip off five to seven yards on first down on each drive? What a frustrating scenario for a defense. The Middies are simply unstoppable.

I have asked several people who should know the answer to this and still have not gotten a logical response to the question: Why donít more schools run that offense? It worked in the 'seventies didnít it? Why just the service academies?

Donít even try to make the argument that it is too boring and the athletic directors donít want it because it wonít sell tickets. In college football if a team wins, there will be ticket sales.

Perhaps the best argument I have heard is that todayís student-athletes donít like the wishbone so it is hard to recruit with that offense.

OK, Iíll kind of buy that one.

One thing that was not monotonous was the ambiance of the Navy experience. Having been there several times now, I can honestly say it is my favorite place to visit for a road game.

There is the military academy pomp and circumstance that you get at Army, and West Point may have a more beautiful stadium setting, but for lovers of the nautical scene it is hard to beat Annapolis.

A trip to the quaint downtown area to have a look at the sailboats on the Chesapeake Bay and a visit to one of the taverns for a brew and some Maryland crab cakes makes this road trip one of a kind in the nation.

Pirate fans that missed this opportunity should make sure they join their ECU brethren for the relatively short trek in 2011, which is the next time the Midshipmen show up on the away schedule. Navy comes to Greenville in 2010 and 2012. [View future schedules.]

Now itís on to UAB.

Skip Holtz and company do not need to be reminded of the state of Alabama jinx on the Pirate program. This year would be as good as any to end it.

True, ECU has never won a football game in Alabama, including several attempts in recent years. However, if the old axiom holds true, most teams improve the most from week one to week two.

This time around the Pirates go to Birmingham with a real chance to win and a coaching staff that will have them ready.

The growing confidence of the Pirate offense was evident in the Navy game. With a little help from their friends on defense, ECU will break the Alabama jinx this week.

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This page updated 04/21/08 07:03 PM.

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