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Insights and Observations

Henry's Highlights
Wednesday, October 4, 2006

By Henry Hinton

Promising phase of season starts with UVa

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Winnable. That’s the quickest and most positive way to describe each and every one of the remaining eight games on the East Carolina schedule.

In spite of the team's 1-3 start, there is great optimism among the fan base.

Confidence that ECU can finish strong is not just contained to people who follow the program from a close proximity. This week the Pirates found themselves among teams predicted to make a postseason bowl game.

The Fox Sports website published its bowl projections earlier this week and surprise, surprise… the Pirates are there. While it is way early, it is fun to think that the site may be accurate in predicting that ECU will face Syracuse in the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field on December 23rd. That would be an interesting match-up considering the Pirates were originally scheduled to play the Orange this year before Terry Holland made some changes in the schedule.

Click this link to check out the Fox Sports projections for yourself.

First things first. The Pirates have a rare opportunity to host an ACC team Saturday night when Virginia comes to town. Two weeks ago, it appeared ECU might have gotten the Wahoos on the right year.

Then came UVa's game at Duke.

Saturday, the Cavaliers rebounded to crush the Blue Devils 37-0. They will bring their 2-3 record into a rollicking Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday night with a newfound confidence.

Perhaps the biggest factor in their turnaround is the play of redshirt freshman quarterback Jameel Sewell. Cavs Head Coach Al Groh has tapped Sewell after trying three different players as the signal caller.

While the consensus is that Sewell does not have an extremely strong arm, even ECU coach Skip Holtz says that he looks like he has gained confidence.

“When you see him in the game a week ago when he first started, he wasn't as comfortable as he was last week against Duke. I'm sure with this week of practice under his belt and a full week of film study, he'll come in here and be a lot better then he was a week ago,” said Holtz.

The Pirates continue their home stand and crowds have been great. How much will the home field advantage help ECU? Most likely a great deal. With a surging Virginia team, the Pirates will need all the help they can get.

“People look at their record and say, well, they are 2-3 and have lost a couple football games, but I think they are a lot better then their record indicates.” Holtz said of UVa. “This should be a heck of a challenge this week.”

Perhaps the largest concern entering the game continues to be a lack of an ECU running attack. In that regard, the open date could not have come at a better time. Coach Holtz and the staff have made that a priority during the off week.

“It's been a combination of things”, says Holtz. “We have looked at moving a lot of personnel around. We have taken a look to try to find the right chemistry mix. We want to get the right players on the field at the right time and in the right position.”

Chris Johnson is expected to play in spite of the lingering problems with turf toe. Perhaps more questionable is star receiver Aundrae Allison, who is still nursing a high ankle sprain.

If ECU is to make the turnaround predicted on the Fox site and by others, a win over Virginia could be a large key and a good start at the “winnable” part of its schedule.

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This page updated 04/21/08 07:02 PM.

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