By Nathan Summers
Friday, December 14, 2012
Young men in college need only to walk onto Bourbon Street for the first time to be introduced to its many temptations.
In a few days, the East Carolina football team will arrive in New Orleans to begin final preparations for the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against Louisiana, and to make sure none of those temptations befall any of his players before the Dec. 22 game, ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill has literally shown them a direct route of avoidance.
“The bus station diagram has been designed for them, how far the bus station is from the hotel, and the route the bus will go to take them back to Greenville,” McNeill said at Thursday’s pre-bowl news conference.
In an effort to build positively on what McNeill calls “Pirates in public,” the coach has promised his players that any misbehavior in the Big Easy will result in a difficult, lonely trip home.
“They’ll have a visual picture of hotel, bus station,” the third-year head coach said of the Pirates’ trip to play the Ragin Cajuns, who like the Pirates are 8-4 entering the game. “We talk about Pirates in public a lot. I expect our team to conduct itself in a professional, first-class manner. We’ll address it again on Sunday night, and then again on Tuesday when we get to New Orleans.”
It’s not just about playing in the postseason for the Pirates this year. The team has adopted the classic one-game season mentality for its bowl game, but there is undeniable added pressure in that ECU has now played in three consecutive bowls without a victory.
Even fresher on the minds of McNeill and the Pirates, however, is not playing in one at all last year.
In his almost 30 years as a college coach, McNeill said he’s rarely missed the postseason, which made him really miss it last year when the Pirates were stuck at home.
“It was unusual, us being home at Christmas,” he said. “We’re used to practicing when it’s cold like right now. It’s important.”
McNeill has a perspective on things which causes him to be invested in a way that is unique to almost anyone else involved in ECU football. He is a former Pirate player, an ECU graduate, the team’s head coach and an admitted ECU fan.
“When I look at the games, whether it’s a win or a loss, I enjoy them or am hurt by them three times worse,” he said. “Not going to a bowl game last year, it bothered me, ate at my core.”
A remarkably clean bill of health has persisted for the Pirates through most of the season, and that good fortune will continue into the bowl game barring any practice injuries between now and then.
Since the team’s overtime triumph over Marshall on Nov. 23, the already slim injured list has dwindled back to one. Only defensive end Justin Dixon — who sustained a season-ending knee injury in the Pirates’ second game of the season at South Carolina — remains unavailable.
Contact Nathan Summers at email@example.com or 252-329-9595.
via The Daily Reflector.