A Message To The Pirate Nation
Nov. 22, 2010
Thank you for the opportunity to tell many of you personally - face to face, by e-mail and in larger gatherings - that each of you is as important as any player, coach or administrator in building a great athletic program. The singular and most important accomplishment during my time as director of athletics has been the willingness of the individual members of the Pirate Nation to take ownership of this athletic program.
Your ownership has created a game atmosphere recognized as one of the very best in college football and you have supported our teams to bowl qualification for five consecutive years. These two accomplishments alone provide a recruiting and season ticket/donor base that will eventually allow ECU Football to achieve and maintain an elite status in college football.
Successful ownership of any enterprise requires the discipline to stay focused on the bigger picture and it is a proven fact that how ownership reacts to adversity is the supreme test of whether or not any enterprise will succeed in the long term.
It is my belief that, in the long term, the extremes of ecstasy and agony experienced by this year's team have provided an opportunity to test our ownership qualifications as well as to test the new coaching staff's ability to manage the extreme circumstances they have faced as they have played the cards they were dealt.
The bigger picture is clear - six wins is a remarkable achievement for this team, but no one should be satisfied with this result, particularly since we should have two more opportunities to add to that win total.
Coach Ruff tells the team (and all of us) that "you don't win alone and you don't lose alone." Playing the "blame game" as owners or team members will guarantee that the enterprise will always be a loser looking for someone else to blame when things continue to go wrong.
Each of our three units (offense, defense, special teams) has had adverse situations when the other units picked up the slack and delivered a memorable Pirate win.
We began the season with great concerns about our defense and we are ending the season with even greater concerns. However, let's provide some game-to-game context to those concerns:
Game 1 - The defense denies three Tulsa two-point conversions that provide the margin of victory.
Game 2 - The defense forces three Memphis TO's in the first quarter that allows the Pirates a comfortable game-long victory margin.
Game 3 - The defense holds Virginia Tech to 21 points and an ECU lead until 4:34 left in the third quarter.
Game 4 - The defense holds North Carolina to seven (7) offensive points and an ECU lead until 5:40 left in the third quarter even though Justin Dixon is lost for the season in the first half.
Game 5 - The defense plays a major role in the comeback after Southern Miss turns two first-quarter ECU turnovers into touchdowns and adds two field goals for a 20-0 lead at end of the quarter.
Game 6 - The defense holds the ACC's second-ranked NC State offense to ZERO TD's in the second half and an OT interception seals the best win of the season.
Game 7 - The defense holds Marshall to 10 points, the lowest opponent scoring total since ECU defeated UCF 13-10 in 2008. I believe most folks would agree that the new defensive staff and nine new defensive starters had accomplished a miracle at this point by building a defensive unit that could go head-to-head with some of the best teams in the country although sufficient depth to play the increased number of plays created by a fast-paced offensive attack was still a great concern after losing Dixon in Game 4.
Game 8 - Disaster strikes - Michael Brooks and Marke Powell are lost for the season at UCF.
In my post before the Navy game, I alerted the Pirate Nation to the dire circumstances our defense faced: This Pirate Football team has made us all proud in so many unexpected ways. They have demonstrated an incredible will to overcome adversity with the kind of heroic efforts you would expect from great Pirates ... and that bodes well for the future of this football program.
Injuries are part of football and another adversity that has to be overcome, but we have lost some valiant warriors, particularly at key defensive positions. The team will need your support more than ever before as everyone pulls together to fill some gaping holes for this stretch run.
Game 9 - The depleted personnel situation makes a tough game into an impossible situation when Navy's eight (8) second-half possessions begin at an average of the ECU 42-yard line (E42, E29, E21, N40, N49, 50, E36 and E48). Navy's time of possession advantage is 9:36 with most of that in the second half.
Game 10 - The Pirate defense steps up in the fourth quarter with some key plays that allow the Pirates to bring home only their second win in ECU history played in the state of Alabama since 1965.
Game 11 - The defense finds it impossible to stop a Rice team that ends the game with an unprecedented 17:32 time of possession advantage.
When a team has to stretch to fill gaping holes, those adjustments make every part of the enterprise more vulnerable. Somehow the defense found a way to make significant fourth quarter contributions in the win at UAB in circumstances that would have overwhelmed most teams. However, the defense was unable to overcome similar circumstances against Navy and Rice.
Those facts are what they are - six (6) wins to date is remarkable (but we want two more) and giving up over 60 points twice is unacceptable under any circumstances. However, those stats are now part of our history.
How we, as owners, move forward will determine our final destiny by sending a clear message to today's team members and future recruits. If any of us choose to play the "blame game," we will be giving away a goodly portion of what we have worked so hard to create.
SMU is a quality football team playing for its first West Division championship. It is also an opportunity for all the "owners" of Pirate athletics to say "thank you" to Dwayne Harris and the other seniors who have helped rebuild this football program over the last four or five years.