Just Like Last Year?
by Josh Spence

After five games in the 2006 season the outsider might view the early season as a repeat of last year for the East Carolina football team.  ECU is 2-3, 2-1 at home and 0-2 on the road, just like last year.  For the most part the Pirates have played close games in each of their first five, including a good showing against nationally ranked West Virginia, just like last year.  So what’s different this year?  It’s overall team consistency, and a dedicated effort to defending against the run which has led to the Pirates winning two of their last three in convincing fashion. 

And make no mistake, the attitude, confidence and inner-perception of this team and its chances are nothing like last year.  The Pirates are beyond confident.  Heck, defensive end Marcus Hands said after the West Virginia game, “there’s no reason we shouldn’t go 9-3.” 

So just how big was the UVA win?  If the Pirates are to go and finish the rest of the year strong, one could point to this game as the one where ECU really got it turned in the right direction.  However, if the rest of the season isn’t that positive, this game would be considered a good win, but against a struggling Virginia team in the midst of a rebuilding season. 

Only time will determine how this victory goes down in history, but just how long do you have to go back to find a win of this caliber?  I think automatically we can throw out 2003-2005.  From there you look back to a 4 win season in ’02, only the TCU win jumps out.  How about 2001?  Wins at Cincinnati and TCU were big, but ECU limped to the finish line, losing its last 3 on the way to a 6-6 season.  Really I think you have to go all the way back to ECU’s last bowl win in 2000 to find a win comparable the UVA game.  It may have been the Gallery bowl, but who wouldn’t have taken another one of those in the last four years. 

Consider this simple statistic:  ECU is 2-0 when the Pirates rush for more than 100 yards.  It seems like a no-brainer, but ECU has had trouble getting to that 100 yard mark. They did however seem to hit on something against Virginia.  Whether it was the changes on the offensive line, the combination of the Brandons (Fractious, Simmons) in the backfield, or the play-calling, ECU got it done on the ground and that helped the Pirates dominate time of possession by more than 17 minutes.  It’s no secret that ECU will have to find a way to keep it going for the rest of the year to be successful.

Although the Pirates have two more games left on this rare 5-game home-stand, the key now for this program will be winning on the road.  The Pirates are 2-6 on the road since Skip Holtz took over and will need to do better than that this season.  If they want to play in a bowl game that is.   Four of the Pirates final seven games are on the road, and ECU needs four victories over the final seven to become bowl eligible.  It’s a tall order, but one the Pirates will need to fill, that is if they don’t want this season to end up just like last year. 

Josh Spence