College Football: ECU wants one upset to follow another
GREENVILLE ó There wasn’t much time for Skip Holtz to enjoy his signature victory at East Carolina. Not when the Pirates had to figure out a way to follow it up.
Congratulations, East Carolina. By upsetting 17th-ranked Virginia Tech, the Pirates took an impressive first step toward busting into the BCS. Now for the harsh reality: They’ve got to do it again this week against No. 8 West Virginia, or else they can pretty much forget about reaching one of those big bowls.
“Where we go from here is a lot more important than what happened in the (Virginia Tech) game itself,” Holtz said Monday. “If we go out and lose the rest of the games all season, then everybody’s going to say, ‘It’s just a fluke. They got lucky.’ So I think the challenge that we have ahead of us is to make sure that we can draw the line between the public image of what just happened Saturday, and the internal image of what just happened Saturday ó which was: We got one win.”
But what a validating victory it was for East Carolina, which has perennially pined for respect behind the state’s four Atlantic Coast Conference schools, using that chip-on-the-shoulder attitude to fuel its turnaround from the Conference USA cellar back to a postseason regular.
The Pirates (1-0) beat Frank Beamer at his own game, returning a blocked punt 27 yards for the decisive touchdown with fewer than 2 minutes left in the 27-22 victory. East Carolina’s first regular-season win over a ranked team since 2002 ó and its first against a team that highly ranked in nearly a decade ó made them the talk of college football for a while and sent the players into a temporary state of disbelief.
“It’s big for us, but it’s even bigger for our community” in eastern North Carolina, linebacker Nick Johnson said immediately afterward. “It’s just exciting (and) it really hasn’t hit me yet that we pulled out that victory.”
While outfoxing Beamer was tough, Holtz now faces perhaps an even more difficult job: Bringing his Pirates back to earth amid the burgeoning BCS buzz.
“It’s not learning how to win that concerns me as much as it is learning how to handle winning,” Holtz said. “Human nature wants you to kind of beat your chest and pump your ego and listen to everybody tell you how good you are, and it makes it hard to focus on what you have to do, and I think part of learning how to handle winning is learning how to stay humble and learn to stay hungry for what you have to do, with all the media activity around you and all the attention that you may be getting.”
BATON ROUGE, La. ó Crossing the Mississippi River on the Horace Wilkinson Bridge, heading east into Baton Rouge well before... read more