Still Plenty to Play For
by Josh Spence

For the Pirate football team, the loss to Tulsa dashed hopes, dreams, and goals set forth by this team at the beginning of the season. The loss ended their chances to finish 2005 with a winning record and also erased any hope of going to a bowl game this season.  It was especially painful because of the way it happened.  Slow starts had been plaguing the Pirates all year, and in the first quarter against Tulsa it was more of the same.  ECU had done a good job all year of finding a way to get back in the ball game in the second half, but this time their comeback came early.  The Pirates rallied from a 10-0 first quarter deficit, to take a 13-10 lead into halftime.  Unfortunately for East Carolina, the second half was more like the first quarter.

Like it or not, 2005 was to be a rebuilding year for this team.  It was the Pirate seniors who didn’t want to hear it.  Guys like Chris Moore, Guy Whimper, and Gary Freeman, who had been through so-called rebuilding years with this team, don’t want to hear about how bright the future is.  Unfortunately it takes more than a year to turn a 2-9 football team into a winning program.  Even this week Skip Holtz said: “We knew that this was not going to be a turn key operation where you come in and sprinkle a little “whiffle dust” and all of the sudden you’re going to win all of your games.  Unfortunately Coach Holtz was right.

The fact is that East Carolina is a much improved football team from the past two seasons.  You have seen it. I have seen it and the truth is in the numbers.  The Pirates are better in every major statistical category.  Through nine games ECU is averaging 26 more yards rushing per game, 43 more yards passing.  Defensively ECU has allowed 52 less yards through the air per game, and 11 fewer on the ground.  As a whole the Pirates are gaining 69 more yards per game and allowing 63 fewer yards per game, scoring more and allowing less.

With that in mind, there is something to be said for learning how to win.  Unlike the last two seasons, the 2005 Pirates have had a chance to win in the fourth quarter of nearly every ball game.  The most dramatic example is the WVU contest.  The 2004 Pirates lost 56-23 in Morgantown, but the 2005 team played much better.    WVU racked up 478 yards rushing in the 2004 rout, but ECU held them to only 127 in 2005,  losing a close one 20-15 to the team now ranked 13th I the nation.  The team has played well enough to win nearly every game this year, but just can’t figure out how to close it out in the end.

The difference in this season comes down to one or two key plays in each ball game.  A couple of breaks go the other way, and all of the sudden ECU is plus .500 and playing in their first bowl game since 2001.  However, don’t give up on this team yet.  With two games left in the season a 4-4 mark in Conference USA is still attainable.  In fact ECU could tie for second place in the East if the ball bounces their way.  For the seniors on this team careers may be ending, but make no mistake, this team still has a lot to play for.

Josh Spence