Heels upbeat for ECU showdown

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Call it the Zero Bowl, the 0-fer Bowl or the Awful Bowl, but at least locally, this game has as much excitement as a bowl game – the only one either team will likely participate in this year. Carolina has not started a season 0-6 since Mack Brown's first year in 1988.

Following Wednesday's practice, the mood in the UNC locker room was surprisingly upbeat. Even a few players were still talking about a post-season bowl. What?

"There is no doubt we can win these next seven games and go to a bowl game," wide receiver Jarwarski Pollock said.

Head coach John Bunting talked exclusively to Inside Carolina and said that good things are still going to happen this year.

"If we win this week, I think we'll be winning two or three in a row," Bunting said. "We all know where we could be right now with a few plays here and a few plays there. Where we struggled last week was on offense. We've got to get that back on track, and that starts up front."

  • The Tar Heels are going to rotate 23 to 25 players in on defense this week, Bunting said.

    "That's not what you want, but that's what we're doing," Bunting said. "We're going to have a lot of linebackers playing and the defensive front is going to rotate. We are in a situation where we are continuing to play a lot of players and see which ones can make plays."

    Last week, Carolina got a much-needed shot in the arm with a new look at the linebacker positions, sparked by nine tackle (seven solo) performances from true freshmen Larry Edwards and Fred Sparkman. Edwards admitted he was a little shocked that things went so well.

    "I didn't expect that at all," Edwards said. "I was just hoping to contribute. I just wanted to get out there and not mess up. This is all coming kind of fast, but I'm just taking it as it comes. I'm trying to get my film study down and get my reads down."

  • East Carolina senior running back Art Brown, a preseason All-Conference USA selection and Doak Walker Award candidate will miss the entire 2003 season due to a knee injury. In the 2001 meeting, Brown nearly single-handedly carried the Pirates to an upset win at Kenan Stadium. Not only did Brown combine for over 100 yards rushing and receiving, he also returned four kickoffs for a total of 131 yards.

    The Tar Heels had comeback to take an eight-point lead with 12:04 remaining in the game, when Brown took the ensuing kickoff and was headed into the end zone for what was going to be an 81-yard kickoff return. But UNC's Derrick Johnson poked the ball out from behind before Brown could cross the goal line and it rolled out of the end zone.

    Brown would catch a 6-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds left to bring the Pirates within a field goal, but Chris Curry fielded the onside kick attempt and the Tar Heels escaped with a 24-21 victory.

  • The only Tar Heel loss in the series was a 38-17 defeat in 1975. Alge Crumpler's father Carlester Crumpler, Sr. was instrumental in the victory over Carolina, which would wind up the season 3-7-1.

    The two teams tied 24-24 in 1979, when UNC kicker Jeff Hayes' nailed a 47-yard field goal with 13 seconds left to avoid the defeat.

    Carolina's biggest win came in 1981, when the future Gator Bowl champs would finish 10-2. UNC's Kelvin Bryant rushed for 211 yards and an ACC record six touchdowns, shutting out the Pirates for the first time in 110 games, 56-0.

  • Ten pairs of Pirates and Tar Heels that were high school teammates will be on opposite sidelines: ECU WR Edwin Rios and UNC CB Derrick Johnson – Eleanor Roosevelt (Md.); ECU DE Ike Emodi and UNC FS Ronnie Bryant (Durham Riverside); ECU LB Shawn Hodges and UNC CB Chris Hawkins (Kinston); ECU LB Eric Terry and UNC CB Michael Waddell (Richmond County), ECU CB Donald Whitehead and UNC LB Victor Worsley (N. Edgecombe); ECU S Kyle Chase and UNC DE Shelton Bynum (Atlanta Cedar Grove); ECU S Travis Heath and UNC DT Issac Mooring (Tarboro); ECU WR Juwon Crowell, FB Jason Pender and UNC DL Isaiah Thomas (Winston-Salem Carver); ECU CB Brandon Rainer, OL David Jorgensen, Garrett Peterkin and UNC CB Jacoby Watkins and OT Willie McNeill (Scotland County).

  • Wake Forest is the only ACC team to ever win in Greenville, and that came on the Deacons third try. East Carolina, 4-1 against the ACC at home, has enjoyed some of its best turnouts for these games:
    1963: ECU 20 Wake Forest 10 (17,000 – set stadium record at that time)
    1997: ECU 25, Wake Forest 24 (38,031 – 14th largest all-time)
    1999: ECU 37, Duke 9 (42,052 – 3rd largest all-time)
    1999: ECU 23, N.C. State 6 (50,092 all-time largest)
    2001: Wake Forest 21, ECU 19 (38,674 – 10th largest all-time).

  • UNC coaches' James Webster and Dave Huxtable were former ECU assistants, and strength and conditioning coordinator Jeff Connors, along with staff members Jeff Kerr and Robert Tate also worked for the Pirates.

  • According to the latest Sagarin rankings, Carolina's 2003 schedule is the nation's second-toughest behind Notre Dame, with East Carolina coming in at No. 5. Alabama and Colorado are third and fourth, respectively.

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