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.
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.
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…