Nov 182013


Nathan Summers

Sunday, November 17, 2013


By late in the second half on Saturday, Blaze was a shell of his former self in every sense.

His beloved UAB football team had long since succumbed to East Carolina by that time on Saturday evening. The Blazers’ green dragon mascot made the trip from Birmingham, Ala., in search of a UAB win in what could be the teams’ final meeting, and he’d seemingly been reduced to an empty pile of green fabric lying on the turf surface of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Presumably, Blaze’s usual occupant had taken the rest of the day off as the Pirates piled up a 63-14 victory. The dragon carcass left lying on the field near the UAB cheerleading team was almost too theatrical in summation of the day’s events.

For the fourth consecutive game, the Pirates faced few real challenges in their utter decimation of UAB, a win which saw the hosts singe the worst defense in Conference USA for 625 yards, 278 of them on the ground.

A stirring Senior Day celebration gave rise to yet another feeding frenzy for the Pirates, who fittingly got career days from mainstay short-timers like wide receiver Reese Wiggins and linebacker Kyle Tudor.

Another hapless C-USA team fell harmlessly by the wayside for an ECU team seemingly on pace for a season that will rank among the best in school history in terms of wins and accomplishments.

The level of disparity between the 8-2 Pirates and their last four opponents, however, raises a fair albeit typical question. Are the Pirates this good or is Conference USA this bad?

For the Pirates and the 23 seniors who marched across Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium’s 50-yard line with their families before creating something just shy of a masterpiece on the same field for the rest of the day, the answer really isn’t important.

ECU is posting the same monumental sorts of scores and statistics — the Pirates have outscored their last four opponents by a total of 210-65, for example — that any great team would.

And no matter how big the blowouts have been, ECU will almost certainly meet a worthy adversary at division co-leader Marshall to end the regular season on Nov. 29, and it’s very likely that series finale for ECU will define the season, for better or worse.

The teams have effectively spoiled each other’s postseason hopes each of the last two seasons in overtime games. Despite ECU’s utter offensive dominance, it’s the Thundering Herd which has led the league in total offense for most of the season, so the Pirates will hardly get off lightly in their quest to play 14 games.

Also not withstanding another pushover win for the Pirates are the moments created on Saturday by the seniors on a team which still stands a chance to become part of future arguments about the best ECU football teams.

Fourth-year head coach Ruffin McNeill was as always true to his word of honoring the impending end of his senior’s playing careers, and he gave his usual heartfelt gestures to each of them as they were introduced, and in turn they gave McNeill some of their best when the game began.

Wiggins — a Durham native who was flanked in the pregame by a healthy handful of family members, some wearing jerseys adorned with his No. 15 — showed off his sprinter’s speed and dancer’s agility as he made five catches for a career-best 142 yards and touchdowns of 5, 55 and 17 yards.

Tudor, an Augusta, Ga., native, had mom and dad in each of his arms as he strode across the field before the game. He went back across it at high speed a few hours later and used running back instincts to return an interception 50 yards to the end zone for one of his team’s nine touchdowns.

Like everyone else who heard their names called during Saturday’s Senior Day ceremony, Wiggins and Tudor have scaled enough hurdles in the last five years to be absolved of worrying about whether or not their wins were tough enough to get.

Hopefully someone helped Blaze get onto the UAB bus after the game.

Contact Nathan Summers at or 252-329-9595.

via The Daily Reflector.


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