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College football: Season not a waste for Pirates, Robinson

By Aaron Beard
Associated Press
GREENVILLE ó Once again, Skip Holtz has guided East Carolina to another first.
The Pirates have played their way to homefield advantage against No. 18 Houston in Saturday’s Conference USA championship game, the first time the game has been played at Greenville’s Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
It marks the fourth straight season the program has accomplished a key goal that went unfulfilled the previous year, tangible proof that East Carolina isn’t becoming stagnant amid its recent success under the fifth-year coach.
“To keep the momentum of the program, I think it’s huge,” Holtz said. “It’s something the seniors have looked at as this is their legacy that they’re leaving. I don’t think there’s any doubt they have left (the program) much better than they found it.”
Holtz said the senior class has been critical to the program’s rise, noting that defensive end Scotty Robinson (Salisbury) told the team before last weekend’s game that losing to Southern Miss and missing the chance to defend its title would make the entire season “a waste.””That’s the standard and the expectations they’ve kind of put on themselves,” Holtz said. “That’s why that locker room is where it is after a game. When you have to step out in that arena and get it done, it’s an unbelievably gratifying feeling.”Holtz inherited a program that had lost 22 of 25 games ó with 19 coming by double-digit margins and seven by at least 33 points ó when he arrived after the 2004 season. The Pirates (8-4, 7-1 C-USA) have been on a steady ascent ever since.
East Carolina earned a return trip to the league title game by beating Southern Mississippi in last weekend’s regular-season finale. With the best record in the league ó Houston won the West at 6-2 ó the Pirates will have homefield advantage as they try to become the first team to win consecutive C-USA titles since the league went to divisional play four years ago.
Houston (10-2) and ECU didn’t play this year, but the Cougars rolled to 621 total yards in last year’s 41-24 win at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. East Carolina has won seven straight home games against league foes since that loss.

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