These Pirates have tossed a mammoth monkey off a proud nation’s back

To Lead and be Lead: The team's leaders and future stars all expect to win now against UNC

To Lead and be Lead: The team’s leaders and future stars all expect to win now against UNC

I won’t call it “our Super Bowl,” mostly because I refuse to give those people – you know who I am talking about – the satisfaction. But, it was a milestone win for our program and anyone who denies it, IMO, really has never vested themselves completely into the ECU culture. It was a monumental victory not because we beat the over-privileged, over-indulged, over-hyped group from Chapel Hill – because we have done that before nor was it a colossal accomplishment that our kids beat them at their own place though both points are ingredients in a much more important and bigger Pirate feast. No, IMO, this was a milestone for our program because of the manner in which our kids dispatched of the powder blues.

A wire-to-wire, dismantling of the in-state college foe devoid of drama, without the need of a last-second kick, without a doubt ever from the opening drive who the better team was to the player – including on this day the future NFL first-rounder on that team. As Vince McMahon says, a complete “smack down” in front of a packed house – their house – filled to the brim because our fans made it so under the leadership of a career assistant coach provided ample new treads by his alma mater. The story line was rich, but there was no drama. This was big. And the cherry on top was that our kids recognized that they were bigger, stronger, and faster than the Tar Heels and rather than let it flitter away, they steadily applied the gas and snuffed them early. By the end, our kids while happy to whoop it up with the fans who stayed to the end to savor the moment, appeared to be saying, “no biggie, we know we beat them down…kind of expected it.”

Attitude. That is my big take away from this game. Our kids left the field with this win in perspective – a win nothing more, nothing less. Our kids appear to consider this another game – while acknowledging the bragging rights component of it – we have already moved forward as a program. That will carry over – if nurtured properly. No fans rushed the field looking to tear down goal posts. Yet, a monkey was tossed aside by this victory. I have already had multiple calls with friends who went to UNC – a couple of which are true diehard blue when it comes to their alma mater – and while they each have tossed me their takes on the game, not one of them…not one…has denied the fact that our team beat their team in every facet of the game. In fact, one of my friends – a money giver at UNC – acknowledged that honestly, it probably would have been worse had the Pirates not started stretching out the snaps down the stretch. When a crowd like those at North Carolina are left speechless, excuse-less (and yes, the mouths are out there, but talk to your friends who know football and understand)…and even hint at actually admitting what was oh so evident on the field and on the screen, you have made a major dent in the paradigm that has held the state of North Carolina in regards to football and painfully, both fan bases.

Fully invested: The Pirate Nation can now downplay the future against UNC...the monkey is off the back.

Fully invested: The Pirate Nation can now downplay the future against UNC…the monkey is off the back.

It was our fans, remember, that using logical deduction – and it was logical – pretty much wrote this game off going in. Yes, we all looked for reasons why we might win. Yes, we all joined in the bravado, but I believe for most of us, we all felt like all the tumblers would have to fall in place for us to actually escape with a victory and even if we did, we all expected it to come on the heels of a play like the one that won the 2008 Virginia Tech game. Well…that is not what happened. The outcome, really, after our third series in the game was never in question from that point on. You could sense it, see it, and almost touch it…and for those at the game…you certainly felt it.

This is why this game was big in the ECU Pirate Continuum. This is why ECU fans should recalibrate our expectations going forward. This team has given future teams a wonderful gift if we can ensure it bakes in. This team has re-set the rivalry clock with the Tar Heels. Consider how this works given our own past. Virginia Tech and ECU were peers at one time and when Virginia Tech moved to the Big East, they reset our rivalry (yes, they had new resources, but on the field, they were still the same team early on), but they establish that they would be the alpha in the relationship and then turned a .500 series into a lop-sided series in their favor. We turned the tables on them in 2008 and our program established a new attitude about Virginia Tech, playing them basically even every year since. Case in point #2 (and I hate this one), but Central Florida reset our rivalry on us a few years ago…and did it on the field unfortunately to where we see them as a team we have to play up to now.

Well…we just flipped the script on UNC thanks to these kids and hopefully what was planted in the program last weekend takes root quick and goes deep fast. I know as a fan, I will now expect to put UNC down when we play them in the future no matter what players they buy.

Now, one of the great things about college football is that games happen 7 days later – generally – and theories get a pressure test right away. If I am correct about what this win means to the program and what type of kids we have in the program right now, our team will go out and throttle MTSU. You know, I get the whole hunter now the hunted thing, but these kids seem different. Don’t know about you guys – and I am not a hunter myself – but I will say that I know a lot of hunters (many from my rugby days) and I will tell you this…the hunters I know wouldn’t even know it if they were suddenly being hunted…they would simply consider it a bounty of opportunity that all the deer are surrounding them…more to shoot at, more to fight.  I suspect these kids will not feel that pressure because they are too busy hunting to know they are being hunted.

I expect our offense to carve them up and our defense to manhandle them. Not because MTSU is a week or bad opponent but because our kids appear to be agnostic to who the opponent is. I don’t expect a drop off. I don’t expect this team will have that game this season…you know the one…let’s think back…UAB, Marshall, Rice…you know, the games that broke otherwise great seasons. Not in this team’s DNA in my opinion.

Speed of Leader is the Speed of the Pack...channeling the late coach and personal friend Dr. Henry VanSant (whose is greatly missed)...Carden has grabbed the Pirate Nation and can take them to new heights.

Speed of Leader is the Speed of the Pack…channeling the late coach and personal friend Dr. Henry VanSant (whose is greatly missed)…Carden has grabbed the Pirate Nation and can take them to new heights.

I credit that to the type of kids that are being brought it and some of it…luck. Shane Carden was just plain serendipity. Yes, Lincoln Riley found him and (in fairness here, in my many talks with Lincoln, I always sensed that he was eager for Shane to emerge because he did see it in him), but the fact that Shane is the competitor he is (truly Favre-like) is just plain luck. Talent can be identified and groomed, but warrior mentality is much harder to identify and when that mentality comes with charisma and leadership to the point where you get a guy like Tay Cooper spending his interview talking about going to war with Carden…you have an infectious situation on offense with already talented players raising their game up. I think you see an offense that will hover at around ~45 points a game going forward.

Defensively, if anything resonates from the Rick Smith hire, it is attitude. Not bravado as this team totally does not display that, but rather, lunch pail, get it right, improve and improve and improve…that culture is pervasive on this defense. No one stands out and that is perfect. There are no stars, just 11 guys who work and work and work. I love Kyle Tudor and Jeremy Grove, but I have to say, Zeek Bigger and Brandon Williams, playing against higher level teams, you can’t tell that Kyle and Jeremy aren’t there. You couldn’t tell Terry Williams was missing. This is the depth and the persona that Smith has developed and since that old coach is never satisfied, I expect the defense to turn up the heat this week.

I know…history tells me that I will be writing a different tune next week, but there was something special witnessed at Chapel Hill and I think it was a program taking a step forward right in front of our faces.

What say you guys? Am I over juiced on the purple-ade? Was Saturday an anomaly? Did anyone else get that sense?

Please let me know…

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22 Comments

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22 responses to “These Pirates have tossed a mammoth monkey off a proud nation’s back

  1. Blackbeard's Ghost

    Hey RC! First off always a great read from you guy!
    For the first time this year we saw in what we had discussed earlier that this team could be great if and when they get it together. And they showed us a good bit of it. Not just on offense, but defense playing much better. Granted there was a bit of a lapse on D the second half when UNC scored on 3 quick drives. And the special teams was a little out of sync on a few returns, but the offense was executing and had answers for what ever UNC threw at them on D. Major props to that OLine for T.C.B. (Taking Care of Business)

    We all know one game does not a team make, so building off of this victory is now the goal. This team COULD do something extraordinary this year IF they stay grounded and focused.
    And one other thing I’d like to add….thank you to this Pirate team and Staff. You delivered a most wanted victory over the one team all of Pirate Nation wanted.
    Sorry for the rambling RC but I just can’t help myself right now! I want to go stand from atop the tallest mountain and scream”In Your Face UNCheat!”

    GO PIRATES!!!

    • Your sentiment is widespread and indicative of what I was trying to express. Excited for all the right reasons and focused on the bigger picture, not just a Saturday in September in 2013.

      Cheers and Go Pirates!

    • Ralph Wright

      I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that I thought this team was on the verge of putting it all together but they didn’t just get over the hump, they leveled it. What a great time to be a pirate!

    • Greg Jones

      Ron – Excellent post. Been waiting for your take on this game.

      I’m working and living in Toronto for a few years. My son and I actually drove to Niagara Falls, NY to watch the VT game at a Buffalo Wild Wings because Fox Sports 1 is not broadcast in Ontario. So imagine my surprise when I found the UNC game on my cable line-up this past Saturday afternoon! And what a game it was. You provided great analysis of why this game was so important and what a step it may represent for our program. I put it solidly into my top three Pirate victories (from my era of ECU football fandom, 1987 –present).

      The key is this week’s game though. We MUST nail this win down with a comfortable victory at MTSU. Our program will turn the corner when we win games like UNC, in the manner we did, then win the games we’re supposed to win, consistently. That’s the next step. That’s how we control our own destiny. That will put us in a position to be a nationally recognized program year in and year out. Which, as a 25 year Pirate diehard fan, is what I want.

      Last week was an amazing victory. I’m so proud of our boys and our coaches. I’m sensing something very special about this bunch. Go Pirates!!!! Arrrrrrrgghhhhhhh!

      • Hi Greg…

        That is awesome about the game being on in Ontario…crazy.

        Well said on what it takes for us to establish ourselves outside our own current identity.

        I, too, think that for once, the magic may be there…but it starts in Murfreesboro on Saturday.

        I need to get Matt engaging on here…Robb drops in but no Matt…going to have to get after him some.

        Cheers Greg!

  2. ultraviolet

    Glad to have you back. I think that no matter who this team lined up against Saturday they were going to slap the taste out of their mouths. They interpreted the Va Tech game way different that us lay people. We saw timidity and disarray, while they saw missed opportunity and lots of reasons they were oh so close to winning by just correcting a few things. Where we saw one unit not performing (oline) they saw unity.

    We thought UNC was close in ability to Va Tech. Well they weren’t who we thought they were. Even had they been they’d have gotten trucked. Instead of an improving, talented team and program they were poorly led, classless losers and got the beatdown they richly deserved.

    • Hola UV! Always glad to hear from you.

      You have a very important point about the talent level at UNC. Fortunately for our kids, their talent demolished MTSU, so hopefully our kids can go to Murfreesboro and roll.

      Cheers!

  3. Ed Keller

    Great post Ron. I can’t remember enjoying a game more than i did last Sat. When we got the 3 and out and then marched down the field for the second drive, i sensed it was going to be a special day. UNC seemed dazed and confused by the speed and precision of the offense. It had to be a fun day for LR. He must have gotten to the last page of the playbook by the end. 603 yards and 12 different receivers AND Cooper’s big day…unbelievable! Oh, i know it’s obvious but I just love Hardy. He’s just a pleasure to watch (like DH). On defense i was just as thrilled. I can’t recall ECU putting two better games together in terms of run stuffing. Very impressive. Also, our much maligned secondary held their own as well. I don’t expect them to hold ACC QBs under 300 yards but, if they can keep it reasonable and our line can stop the run, we’re going to win out. Finally, this was a huge emotional win. Like most ECU fans and alumni, i have a huge chip on my shoulder when it comes to UNC. I have a sister who graduated from there so, suffice it to say, it’s an issue. (It’s also why I’m a loud and proud Pirate). So, to beat them in such a resounding fashion is just awesome. Also, to read how their players looked past us (a true sign of their dysfunction as a team) is great fun. I agree with you. When they come to the Fick, i expect us to win. That is definitely progress! Now, we must avoid the letdown (remember 2008?). We must destroy MTSU and should win out…not a team left that we can’t beat. Thanks again for the great post and GO PIRATES!!

    • Hi there ED…your sentiments hit home for me to as my family (extended) are very fond of UNC with a couple grads there too.

      I think the team is primed to keep rolling…but as you will read in my next post, caution must rule the day for the Pirates this weekend.

      I think the key word for the rest of us, you stated throughout this post…PRIDE. A lot to be proud of in these kids, coaches, and that ridiculously loud and visible ECU throng that showed up in Chapel Hill.

      Go Pirates, Go!

  4. Chris B.

    Ron, great post… as always I enjoyed the read… you make several good points so I won’t recount them all… I will just iterate the main ones that resonated with me personally. I was at the game, ultimately enjoying the Carden-led marching pirates song at the end. I have been to hundreds of games over the years and this one easily took over the top spot from the ECU-WV game in 08 as the most enjoyable game I’ve ever experienced. The common thread? That wire-to-wire domination of a highly-favored opponent. The difference? It’s the Tarholes.. the oppressors.. the wine-and-cheese crowd who won’t walk in the rain for fear of drowning because of their up-turned noses. Thank you Pirates for making all the investment of time, energy and vocal cords over the years worth every minute culminating with that performance.. and oh, that Justin Hardy block that de-cleated the Tarhole defensive back.. icing on the cake! I haven’t stopped smiling since last weekend.

    Everyone involved from ECU’s side on this game did an outstanding job, so with that context, I want to give out 3 game balls. First, to the Pirate offensive line…What an incredible performance! Coach Connors must have really loved what he saw in the trenches… Coop had big holes to run through and Carden had tons of time to throw against all those highly-recruited athletes at UNC for most of the game. Great job guys!

    Second, to Rick Smith.. What an incredible turnaround on defense in just one season. For anyone who thought that 53 yards rushing allowed to the Hokies was a fluke, watching that game last Saturday proved the Pirate defense is a deep and talented group. I have to admit when I heard Terry Williams was out along with Grove, I was worried we were going to be bowled over… but no… the next group stepped right in and played as good, and maybe better than we’ve seen our “stars” play… Coach Smith, great job!

    And finally, to the Pirate Nation represented at the game. Showed up in bunches and supported our team as well as any team in college football. I was worried though, that at the end of the game, students were going to rush the field and get the goal posts… Instead, despite the obvious elation throughout the group, everyone acted like we’ve beat them before and expect to beat them again. I’m sure wherever he was on Saturday, Terry Holland was beaming with pride. He taught us all how to win and lose with class, and it showed up on Saturday.. Great job Pirate Nation.

    Like you Ron, I’m praying we won’t see a let-down this week.. like Skip Holtz said after the WV game in ’08, you have to learn how to win. I think this coaching staff will manage that part well. We’ll see on Saturday.

    • Welcome Chris!

      I can’t think of three better game balls to give out. The passion comes through loud and clear.

      I love this…”everyone acted like we’ve beat them before and expect to beat them again…”

      To me, that states what I think is the biggest takeaway from this game…an attitude shift which I hope takes root.

      Thanks for dropping by with a passionate post. Love it.

      Cheers!

  5. factoid

    While you are trying to analyze the MTSU upcoming games, fans can’t talk about anything but last week. That alone is scary as it is human nature to revel in recent success. Huge test for coaching staff and team leaders. The match ups favor ECU as you write, How will each team’s passion run? Setting aside a rash of turnovers, which can swing any game, passion will likely rule the day.

    • Thanks for dropping in factoid!

      Hopefully, it is only the fans stuck in Chapel Hill still.

      I worry about turnovers – given MTSU’s fortune so far in that category. I hope that the passion is there for ECU.

      Cheers!

  6. Jolly Roger

    As an attendee of all of those close games in the 70’s, 10-12, 10-14, 24-24, watching Saturday’s game was a joy. Ruff and Co are bringing very good athletes to ECU. Great article. AARRGGHH!

    • Hi JR…thanks for checking in!

      Couldn’t agree more on the players coming in. Saw where that 4-star RB visited and loved ECU. It only takes a few big stars to tab ECU cool and we can take off.

      The recruiting impact of Saturday could be a windfall for the Pirates within the top tier of NC prep players.

      Cheers!

  7. No Quarter

    I can’t remember the last time I jumped up and ran around the room like a kid at Christmas time getting the present he always wanted than when we scored that last TD and drove the knife into the hearts of the Tarheel fans. I have heard alot of names thrown out, but the one I haven’t heard is Coach Ruff. I think he is growing as a head coach and i think he is putting together something special here at ECU, not just for this year but for the future. He loves his players with all his heart and he praises they when they do good and displines them when they do bad. I was one that was critical of him in the past but the more I see the more I like . He has a passion for ECU and works his tail off for ECU. I have extreme confidence that Ruff and the coaching will not allow a let-down this weekend. I see us taking care of businessand coming home with a resounding victory. Go Pirates!!!!!!

    • Welcome NQ…glad to have you here.

      I think your point about Coach Ruff’s evolution as a HC is a very important one. Though not a young guy, he is a young HC and I agree we are witnessing his emergence…he is adjusting to the speed of being the top guy to borrow that phraseology.

      The one factor he has in high quantity is his passion and it is contagious for the kids. We all know that passion in a key ingredient for teams who have to fight uphill for everything and having one of our own with that type of passion is a huge “X” factor for the Pirates.

      A lot of work ahead, but he is proving his worth more and more each week now.

      Let’s hope they keep up the intensity.

      Go Pirates, Go!

  8. Well said, Ron. Hope you’re right about MTSU…

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