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Observations and Punditry

Woody's Ramblings
Monday, September 5, 2005

By Woody Peele

View from the stands getting less neutral



Scoreboard: C-USA teams & ECU opponents



After spending 40 years in the press box, last year’s East Carolina football season was a new thing for me. My wife, Linda, has sat for years in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium with friends or family, but until last season we never were able to sit together.

In the field of journalism, neutrality is the watchword. You have to write your stories without siding with one team or another. Report what happened; not what you feel. If you want to show your feelings, you write a column. No cheering is allowed in the press box.

So, after all those years of sitting silently, suddenly I was cast among the fans, screaming their heads off, cheering for the Pirates — my wife included. Often during the year, she chided me for sitting silently, all the while knowing that old and long habits are tough to break.

Saturday afternoon, when the Pirates opened this season against the Duke Blue Devils, I began to find myself able to cheer aloud. OK, it’s still not where it really needs to be, but I’m improving. Once I even snatched off my Pirate cap and slammed it into the bleacher seat in front of me in disgust when the defense allowed the Dukies to escape once again on a third and long situation.

Being in the stands gives you a different perspective. You don’t have a press box announcer telling you about the play — who ran, how far and who tackled. The public address sometimes was drowned out by the crowd.

But what I saw was very encouraging. There were a number of things I saw that I liked, things I hadn’t seen in some time from the Pirates.

First off, the special teams did an outstanding job, with one glaring exception — Duke’s kickoff return following the first Pirate touchdown.

But overall, I would give the special teams a high grade. Returns, when available against Duke’s short kicks, were well run. Punt returns also turned out well. Coverage against kickoffs and punts was outstanding, again with the one exception.

And as for punter Ryan Dougherty, don’t look at his average. What was important was that four kicks were downed inside the 20 and two inside the five. That included the last one that was downed at the one yard line, setting up the final defensive stand that won the game.

Returning quarterback James Pinkney, who found himself academically ineligible after last year, fought back to regain that eligibility. Despite the fact that he did not participate in spring drills, he, nonetheless, overcame that, regaining his spot during fall drills.

In doing so, he showed that he has matured from the lesson and has grown as a man.

Saturday, Pinkney showed himself even more mature, standing in the pocket to complete 17 of 21 passes, and running when the opportunity arose. If he can continue having games like this, he will be an able leader both on and off the field.

Transfer Aundrae Allison lived up to his billing as a star receiver, pulling in 10 of those 17 Pinkney tosses, including one 50-yarder for a touchdown and another that set up another score. I was very impressed with his abilities.

However, in future games, Allison is going to be drawing a lot more attention, which should free up other receivers. Even so, he has shown the ability pull in a pass even when well covered.

Defensively, the Pirates looked a lot better than they did in recent years, although there is still work to be done to improve things. Duke was able to move the ball on the ground and, too many times, was able to complete third and long passes for first downs, keeping their hopes alive.

But the Pirates were able to come up with the key turnovers when they were needed.

The offensive line still needs work. Running the ball proved difficult for East Carolina and it will have to have a decent ground game if the season is to be successful. There were too many holding penalties, which can really stall the offense.

Finally, there was one feature that’s been lacking that the Skip Holtz area seems to have reinstalled. A year ago, when the Pirates were leading in the fourth period and the other team appeared to be driving, the spirit of the team seemed to flag.

Saturday afternoon, that was not to be seen. East Carolina regained that spirit of 'The fourth quarter is ours.'

With two weeks to prepare for Wake Forest, hopefully, the Holtz crew can iron out a lot of those problems.

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02/23/2007 02:43:57 PM

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