ARTICLE OF THE DAY
Results Portend Excitement
by Allen Thomas
As the football mantra
goes, games are decided on the field of play rather than on
paper. Preseason predictions are always a risky endeavor as we
attempt to calculate 2005 prospects based on 2004 results. Prime
examples are Conference USA teams slated on the second half of ECU’s
football schedule. I was not alone in forecasting favorable
prospects in the ‘05 season verses conference foes Central Florida,
Southern Methodist, Tulsa and Rice. Based on ’04 results and pre
season predictions these teams appeared to present strong probabilities
for Pirate victories. Well… don’t count those chickens just yet.
Someone forgot to tell UCF, SMU and Tulsa they were supposed be our
pansies in 2005. Through the first two weeks of the season these
teams have scared the daylights out of Oklahoma, South Carolina and
dealt Texas Christian a humbling blow.
The wake-up call began in the first Thursday night matchup of the
season. Central Florida withstood the hype and toe-to-toe with
South Carolina in the second half, causing Steve Spurrier and John
Thompson to develop ulcers, sweating out a hard fought 24-15 victory in
Columbia. Central Florida? Wasn’t this the team predicted as a
bottom feeder in D1-A this season and expected to finish last in
CUSA? Scratch off that guaranteed win on the Pirate schedule.
The trend continued Saturday with SMU’s eye-catching 21-10 defeat of
nationally ranked Texas Christian, the same TCU team that stormed into
Norman Oklahoma the week prior and manhandled the Sooners. Wow.
Did anyone get the license number of that bus which ran over TCU?
Who are these Mustangs?
Speaking of Oklahoma, do you think they are breathing a sigh of relief
escaping the wrath of Tulsa and the prospects of two straight home
loses? The Golden Hurricanes gave the Sooners all they could handle for
three quarters of football Saturday in Norman. Tulsa led 9-7 with
5 minutes left in the third quarter before falling 31-15 and actually
finished the game with a 344-269 total offense advantage. So much
for Tulsa cooperating and agreeing to lie down for the Pirates in
November! Another tough-as-nails opponent to spice up our November
As the pendulum of the 2005 season swings forward providing challenges
it also provides opportunities. There are those opponents whose
early 2005 season results provide optimism for Pirate prospects.
Mid-summer predictions regarding Southern Miss, road trips to West
Virginia, Wake Forest, Memphis and Marshall clearly indicated difficult
challenges ahead. Taking a look: Southern Miss is… well…
the same Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles are solid as always but
Jeff Bower’s team is dealing with the trauma of the Katrina disaster as
well as the loss of several key players kicked off the team in
August. This past Saturday USM played on emotion and performed
well in their loss to Alabama but as emotion wanes, one has to wonder
if difficulties will begin to weigh on USM and present a golden chance
for the Pirates to set a trap and make a statement.
Speaking of traps, Wake Forest must feel snared in a nightmare with its
last-second home loss to Vanderbilt in the Deacon’s season
opener. Wake continued its woes Saturday giving up 21 points to
Nebraska’s defenders on top of the Cornhusker’s offensive output.
The Deacons are bruised physically, emotionally and distracted, as the
Pirates come calling this weekend. ECU’s traveling crowd will play a
major factor in this game as the Pirates look to capitalize on Wake’s
In terms of our good Mountaineer friends, the Pirates have never won
against WVA in Morgantown. What does that mean? Hey, “we
are due.” The ‘neers were less than imposing in their season
opener, backing into a 15-7 victory over Syracuse. West
Virginia’s offense failed to score a point. Could this be the
year the Pirates shock the “Deliverance State” in
Morgantown? I’m sure based on our most recent performance
in their state the Mountaineers aren’t too worried. We have them
were we want them.
Speaking of deliverance, Memphis delivers the nation’s premier running
back in the country with DeAngelo Williams but must now deal with the
debilitating loss of their starting quarterback to injury verses Ole
Miss. The trip to Memphis provides a pivotal mid-season road
opportunity for the Pirates. A win means momentum for Holtz and
crew going onto the bottom of the schedule.
And last but not least… no need to get into all the details of
Marshall’s heartbreaking encounter with ECU in Mobile a few years
back. The Herd are currently dealing with their own shattered
dreams following an epic miscue Saturday verses Kansas State which
literally gave the game away. Marshall struggled in their season
opener against William and Mary two weeks ago but appeared to be back
on track at home versus KSU. The interception and miscue in the
final seconds by the Marshall QB was devastating. All the Herd
had to do was take a knee, call time out and kick the game winning
field goal. Disaster struck, presenting the type of loss which lingers
with players and coaching staff. Nine Saturdays separate the
Pirates from our trip to Huntington. That’s a lifetime of
football. Here’s to the Pirates cashing in on a decade of IOU’s
with hard fought victories this season on the road and settling the
score with a few deserving foes.