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College Football Preview: South Carolina vs. East Carolina

Associated Press
CHARLOTTE ó The circumstances are strangely similar for East Carolina. The Pirates hope the outcome of their first matchup with South Carolina in more than a decade is the same, too.
These teams play tonight in Charlotte, their first meeting since a 1999 contest in Columbia. Back then a focused, storm-fatigued group of Pirates topped the favored Gamecocks in coach Lou Holtz’s first season, 21-3, as Hurricane Floyd ravaged its campus.
East Carolina hopes to give its fans another lift against the 12th-ranked Gamecocks this week as many in the region are still cleaning up after Hurricane Irene made landfall last Saturday on the coastline.
“I told our kids this, ‘We have a lot of people depending on us,'” Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill said.
The Pirates were facing the same thing in 1999 when the Tar River spilled its banks throughout campus. East Carolina had left early for Columbia to miss Floyd’s arrival and wound up living out of a local hotel for another week instead of heading home to prepare for its game with then-No. 9 Miami.
East Carolina used hotel ballrooms as meeting areas and bused to Heathwood Hall prep school for its practices. Gamecock fans left boxes of clothing, food and supplies for the stranded Pirates. The Miami game scheduled a week later for East Carolina’s Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium was shifted to Raleigh for safety concerns. The adversity didn’t stop the Pirates, who rallied to a 27-23 victory.
McNeill screened the school’s 1999 football video for his players last Sunday, a day after Irene had moved on to the Northeast. He made sure his players understood there was something just as familiar for East Carolina.
“At the end, I told the team that it was not a made-up movie. It did not have directors or actors. These were Pirates like you are. Maybe they didn’t sit in this same room, but they donned the purple and gold,” said McNeill.

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