The dust has settled from East Carolina’s win over Tulane Saturday which featured Pirate receiver Justin Hardy becoming the FBS’s all-time receptions leader. The headlines have been sent out, the stories about Hardy published, and ECU is gearing up for its shortest turnaround for a game this season.
The Pirates return to action Friday night, Nov. 28, the day after Thanksgiving just six days after downing the Green Wave at home. ECU has played multiple Thursday night games this season, but before each one of those the Pirates were allotted a bye week to prepare.
The game may be on Friday sure, but this time around ECU Head Coach Ruffin McNeill and his staff have the challenge of preparing their team for a quick turnaround during a holiday week on the road at Tulsa.
“This is the fourth quarter of our season,” McNeill said after Tulane. “At the beginning of the week I defined this as three rounds left in a boxing match. Round one was tonight (against Tulane) and we knew it would be a tough fight of body punches. We have two tough rounds left.”
McNeill went on to say the coaching staff has been preparing for this week since summer. The team will take Sunday night off from practice then hit the field for “heavy days” Monday and Tuesday until finally celebrating Thanksgiving Wednesday and traveling to take on the Golden Hurricane Thursday.
Traveling so far and battling a short week is tough for any team, but it can be monumentally tougher after a loss. Luckily for the Pirates they can hang their hats on a solid 34-6 win against Tulane and build off of their performance.
Behind the hoopla about Justin Hardy’s record ECU’s defense quietly shined all game long against Tulane. The unit pitched a touchdown shutout holding the Green Wave to just two field goals and an eye opening 5-of-18 on third down conversions.
The defense also managed to sack Tulane quarterback Tanner Lee four times. Linebacker Brandon Williams led ECU in the contest with 11 tackles (6 solo) and 1.5 sacks. The win has the unit fired up.
“This win gave us confidence for everyone on our defense,” said Williams. “Not letting them score a touchdown is big for a defense. We’re comfortable now and everyone feels confident with their assignments.”
Coaches and fans of ECU had a scare against Tulane when the quarterback of the defense, junior linebacker Zeek Bigger, appeared to have injured his back or ribs in the third quarter. Bigger said post game that he simply bent the wrong way under a pile of players and needed to shake it off. He mentioned he is ready to play and will be on the field this week, which is good news for the defense if it wants to build off of a strong outing.
Unlike recent offensive struggles for ECU, penalties and turnovers weren’t a crippling factor against the Green Wave. Instead the Pirates struggled a bit with third down conversions finishing just 2-of-11 and were forced to punt on back-to-back possessions multiple times.
ECU has a history of playing down to inferior opponents and Tulsa, sitting at just 2-9, could very well be defined as inferior when compared to ECU this season. In order to avoid a slow start against the Golden Hurricane quarterback Shane Carden knows preparation is key.
“It’s a short week for us and we need to get in our rhythm on offense to get ready for Tulsa,” said Carden. “We have a road game we have to fly to (Tulsa) and I think this is a great opportunity to show we can play on the road.”