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College Football Preview: East Carolina vs. Tulsa

Associated PressGREENVILLE ó It took three seasons for East Carolina to finally make good on the goal of winning its division and reaching the Conference USA championship game. Fortunately for coach Skip Holtz, his Pirates have already had more than a week to celebrate that accomplishment and move forward.
Instead, they can focus solely on what it would mean to bring home the first league title at the school in more than three decades.
The Pirates (8-4, 6-2) travel to Tulsa today for the C-USA championship game after coming within a victory of getting there in each of the past two seasons. That moved East Carolina within a win of its first league championship since claiming the Southern Conference title in 1976.
East Carolina had already wrapped up the league’s East Division title before its home finale against UTEP on Friday, making the game meaningless in the standings. But the Pirates responded with their best performance of the season in a 53-21 victory, a sign that the team wasn’t satisfied just yet.
“Everybody talked last week that if you win you go to the championship game, if you lose it you go to the championship game,” Holtz said. “But the talk among the team was having the opportunity to win eight regular-season games, having the opportunity to build upon where we were and have the possibility of a nine- or 10-win season.”
In the years since their last league crown, the Pirates have been a successful, stick-it-to-the-big-boys program operating in the shadows of four Atlantic Coast Conference schools in the state. But, after being an independent from 1977-96 before joining Conference USA, the Pirates haven’t won their conference despite producing NFL talents like David Garrard and Chris Johnson.

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