Winning Season on the Line
by Josh Spence

Skip Holtz had one goal for his first season at the helm of the Pirate ship; win as many games as this team possibly could.  Whether the Pirates have done that or not is up for debate. But here we are in November, and the Pirates still have a shot at becoming bowl eligible.  To do so the Pirates will have to win their final three games, and following a week off the team remains confident. 

With only three games left the Pirates must now bring a “must-win” attitude in to each game.  In essence, East Carolina starts the playoffs now.  A win for the Pirates prolongs their chances of playing in the post-season for the first time since 2001.  One loss puts the final nail in the coffin that represents the Pirates’ bowl game aspirations. 

However, this game-by-game mentality is nothing new to this team.  Since day one, Skip Holtz has made a commitment to focus on one game at a time.  A blue-collar approach of taking what your opponent gives you, learning from each game, and being the best team possible on any given Saturday.  It is this approach that gives this team a fighting chance. 

The road to the post-season is not an easy one, nor is it impossible.  East Carolina plays 2 of its final 3 on the road.  This team has been a pleasant surprise on the road.  ECU is only 1-3 on the road this year, but has lost all 3 by a combined margin of 18 points. 

The Pirates finish the regular season with two middle-of-the-road teams in the East division of Conference USA: Marshall and UAB.  However, this weekend the Pirates travel to take on the 4-2 Tulsa Golden Hurricanes, who sit comfortably in 2nd place in Conference USA’s West division. 
Winning out will be no easy task for the Pirates, however several factors are still keeping this squad confident.  ECU has two weeks to prepare for Tulsa who is coming off of a tough 3-point loss at West division leader UTEP.  Add to that the fact that the Pirates are coming off of their best offensive production of the season, racking up 542 total yards against UCF.  The Pirate offense got some much needed help from the running game, with JUCO transfer Brandon Fractious leading a Pirate running attack which gained 272 rushing yards.
The key for East Carolina will be to win the turnover battle.  ECU was plus 5 in turnover margin through their first 7 ball games, but 6 turnovers against UCF ruined that number.  Turnovers also cost the Pirates a chance against Southern Miss earlier this year.  Other than that contest against USM, the Pirates have had a chance to win late in every ball game this season. A chance they hope to have once again this Saturday at Tulsa.

Josh Spence