Sep 072013


Friday, September 6, 2013


Black was the new purple on Thursday night inside East Carolina’s Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

With the start of another fall season, the Pirates dove headlong into one of the hottest fashion trends of the last few years when they unveiled their first-ever all-black uniforms in an otherwise routine 31-13 victory over Florida Atlantic.

The Pirates at last joined the ranks of the hipsters in college football and looked good doing so, dressed out in black Nike jerseys, pants and helmets trimmed in purple and gold numbers and letters. It was something ECU players and many (not all) fans began wishing for as soon as teams across the country began making similar bold fashion statements a few years ago.

The statement the Pirates made on the field had at least some of the same dazzle as that provided by Nike, including some critical big plays by the Pirate defense, but the lasting image of the memorable ECU blackout celebration is a depiction of a good team on the cusp of being great.

Less than a week removed from a frantic season opener with Old Dominion in which ECU had to pile up touchdowns for four quarters to feel safe, the Pirate offense plodded at times on Thursday in churning out 312 total yards in their first-ever game against FAU.

On a rare slower day for the usually fleet-footed ECU offense, however, the defense made its presence felt in a big way. The Pirates painted the backfield black with six sacks and nine tackles for loss, and they picked off both FAU quarterbacks and cashed in 10 points off three total turnovers.

The offense couldn’t match its record-breaking performance from the week before, but didn’t need to, and many of the Pirates’ developing patterns — including the true arrival of tailback Vintavious Cooper and the rush attack — point to unprecedented production this season.

The Pirates, in fact, had three near-misses — one on offense, one on defense and one on special teams — that each could have outshined the team’s hotly anticipated uniform debut had they come to fruition. They suggested a bright immediate future, even on a night devoted to darkness.

Lance Ray came within a shoestring of returning a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, bursting through the pack in his own end of the field and sprinting into open space before being tugged down at the FAU 12-yard line, setting up a quick TD drive for his team.

With the Pirates building a comfortable lead in the third quarter, cornerback Josh Hawkins read the mind of FAU quarterback Jaquez Johnson, stepped into the path of his pass toward the left sideline and snared it.

In an instant Hawkins was racing the other way toward the FAU end zone and when he saw one last Owl defender in his path near the 10-yard line, he simply leapt straight into the air. Just an inch or two higher and Hawkins would have authored one of the greatest single highlights in school history.

On the ensuing ECU drive, another highlight for the ages fell just short.

On a second-and-goal from the FAU 5, wide receiver Justin Hardy skied above the west end zone and with one hand outstretched, he palmed a high-arcing Shane Carden pass, pulled it in and nearly kept it in his grasp when he crashed to the ground, but not quite. So close was the one-handed grab to a touchdown that it required a booth review to prove it hadn’t actually happened.

If it’s a game of inches, the Pirates are inches away from greatness and headed in the right direction.

The men inside the black suits on Thursday night are 2-0 as expected and are heading into a home clash with Virginia Tech a week from today, an important next step for a team with big aspirations.

The Pirates also are 1-0 in league play and apparently don’t have to worry about any dark clouds or curses associated with their new black threads, though hopefully they’ll show some fashionable restraint in how often they choose to paint it black.

Contact Nathan Summers at or 252-329-9595.

via The Daily Reflector.


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