College Football: It was a wild season for ECU
By Aaron Beard
Skip Holtz has brought East Carolina back to national relevance. Now the Pirates have to figure out how to stay there.
The Pirates (9-5) finished a wild season with a 25-19 loss to Kentucky in the Liberty Bowl, capping a year that saw them face just about every scenario imaginable. They started the year with wins against Virginia Tech and West Virginia to climb in to the rankings and the national headlines. They suffered through a midseason losing streak that dropped them back into anonymity before putting together a late-season push that included the first conference championship in 32 years.
Along the way, there was also the period of uncertainty when Holtz began talking with Syracuse about the school’s coaching vacancy in early December.
There was plenty to celebrate, namely the winningest season in nine years, even though their bowl ended with the Pirates losing on a fumble return for a touchdown in the final minutes.
“As I told them in the locker room, they don’t have anything to be embarrassed about,” Holtz said after the game in Memphis. “To represent Conference USA and to be here and have the season that they’ve had … I couldn’t be more proud of them. They’ve never hung their heads. They’ve never quit.”
Holtz’s staff has recruited well enough over his four seasons to build depth throughout the roster. There should be plenty of talent coming back with 11 seniors on the two-deep depth chart for the Liberty Bowl. However, three of those seniors were starters at critical positions: quarterback Patrick Pinkney, tight end Davon Drew and linebacker Pierre Bell.
The Pirates will again have the opportunity to grab headlines with a tough nonconference schedule in 2009 that includes home games with Appalachian State and Virginia Tech, and trips to North Carolina and West Virginia.
“I know this team is going in a positive direction next year,” Drew said. “The senior class … have made this season a stepping stone for the program. I am excited to see what this team can do next year.”