Taking Care of Business
by Josh Spence

What were your hopes for ECU football this season, a trip to a bowl?  A winning record? Saturday the East Carolina football team officially crossed into the second half of the season, and with a win over SMU, the Pirates still have plenty to play for.   A bowl game this season is not out of the question, but the Pirates must keep taking care of business.  

The homecoming win over SMU epitomized the Pirates' businesslike approach.  Against SMU, the Pirates did exactly what they needed to, which was pass the football and they were rewarded with their largest margin of victory in the Skip Holtz era, 17 points.  James Pinkney threw for the 3rd most passing yards in ECU history, 391, a career high for the Pirate’s signal caller. 

At 3-4 ECU is a mere three wins away from making that suddenly rare trip to a bowl game that has eluded them since 2001.  If you break down the season overall, it hasn’t been that bad for ECU. 

0-2 is certainly not the way you want to start. Both by five points on the road, one to a solid Navy team, and the UAB game was a tighter grip by Phillip Henry from going the way of the Pirates. 

Next you have the five-game home-stand.  Looking at it before the start of the season I think anybody would have taken a 3-2 record.  The Pirates won the two games they should have, and lost two that most expected them to, and along the way played memorably against top five ranked West Virginia, and knocked off ACC opponent Virginia. 

Overall I think you have to be pleased with the Pirates' effort thus far.  However, ECU still has some issues to resolve if it hopes to play in that elusive bowl game.  Bottom line, the Pirates have to run the ball better.  The Pirates admittedly abandoned the run game against SMU, and why not?  SMU is by far the best run defense in C-USA, and one of the best in the country.   Conversely they are one of the worst teams in the country at stopping the pass.  Passing the ball in this game is a no-brainer.  “We’re not going to sit here and bang our heads against the wall, lets take what they give us,” said coach Holtz. 

That makes perfect sense, but can the Pirates run when they need to?  Don’t forget this team is now averaging a total of 108 yards rushing per game.  That’s 9th out of 12 in C-USA.  Twice this season ECU has rushed for more than 175 yards in a game.  In the two wins other than the SMU game. 

After both of those wins, the talk on the Bill Clark Homes 5th Quarter Call-In Show was all about balance.  It was all about how ECU had success because they mixed it up offensively and played well defensively. 

Now that the Pirates win by nearly exclusively passing the ball, people forget about the need for balance.  If you ask me this team has a long way to go on the offensive front, and if you want to win against teams like Southern Miss, UCF and NC State on the road you had better learn how to run the ball. 

And don’t get me wrong, for some time I have been calling for more of a vertical passing game from the Pirates.  Balance is the key.  You have to take your shots to keep the defense honest, but on the other hand, you have to be able to get chunks of yards on the ground or the defense will sell out on the pass. 

The Pirates have not had much success against the Golden Eagles in recent years, but this game presents a huge opportunity. Currently USM sits atop the East division standings in C-USA.  If the Pirates win, the hopes of a trip to the league championship game are still a real possibility. A loss however will cast a dark shadow on what could be a brutal ending to the season.  From here the Pirates are in control of their own destiny, a destiny we can all be proud of, if they keep taking care of business.

Josh Spence