Gamecocks vs. ECU: Pirates Q&A with Bonesville’s Al Myatt


This week, I got a chance to do a little Q&A ahead of the South Carolina Gamecocks/ECU Pirates matchup with writer Al Myatt from Bonesville.  Clearly, he’s got a very balanced view of his East Carolina team, knowing they have opportunities but still believing in their chances to make a big impact not only this week, but this year.  Considering the Gamecocks don’t play them very often, this is good chance to get more insight on the team playing Saturday night.

Looking back, the only thing I wished I had asked about was whether or not the players and fans all had to talk like Pirates.  I guess for now, we’ll just have to live with what he had to say about their football team.

ECU has had some great success the past two seasons.  What is the overall feeling there about the upcoming season?

There has been a sense of anticipation with quarterback Shane Carden and receiver Justin Hardy returning plus the move to the American Athletic Conference.

Are fans excited about the upcoming game against USC?  Do you think the confidence is higher now after the Gamecocks’ poor opening game?

Pirate fans have been excited about this game like it was the season opener, no slight to N.C. Central but this is the big stage and a nationally-significant opponent. I don’t think confidence is necessarily higher based on South Carolina’s situation. The players and coaches know that their internal focus is the primary factor they need to be concerned with. In an ideal situation for the Pirates, USC would have topped Texas A&M and been looking ahead to Georgia.

Will we see a lot of ECU fans at the game?  Do they travel to a lot of the away games?

I think there will be a noticeable contingent of Pirate fans although this doesn’t have quite the drawing power of a game in Chapel Hill or Raleigh from an emotional or proximity standpoint.

Is there a former player that evokes the most enthusiasm from fans?

Former quarterback David Garrard gets a good reaction when he pops up on the scoreboard big screen in Greenville. Robert Jones, who went from ECU to play for the Dallas Cowboys, has a son, Isaiah Jones, who performed well as a true freshman last year and had 10 catches last week.  

How do you feel the defense is looking with so many people gone? Do you think it’s better than last year or as good?

It looked good last week against an FCS team. It didn’t allow a point. This game will give an indication of whether the program is to the point of rebuilding as opposed to reloading.

Defensive coordinator Rick Smith said the defense may be more athletic this year. They appear to have the ability to play well as a group.

Is there an up and coming defensive star that we should look out for? 

Linebacker Zeek Bigger had 11 tackles last week.

Certainly Coach Ruffin McNeil has recruited some strong defensive players, just wondering if there are any on this years team? Perhaps worthy of note is that there are eight players from South Carolina on the ECU roster.

Do ECU students/fans sometimes feel overlooked in North Carolina?

I think there is less of that at the moment with decisive wins over UNC and N.C. State last year plus a lot of TV exposure in the AAC. Do you think that creates a chip on their shoulders like they have something to prove? I think the program is transitioning to being good in its own right as opposed to reacting to its perception from outsiders.

What are you hearing in the ECU world about this game saturday?

Anticipation. Redemption. This will be a measuring stick against a 48-10 loss at South Carolina in 2012.

What are your thoughts on the outcome Saturday?

I’m not sure how much the season openers told us. I thought ECU could compete at USC in the preseason. After the loss to Texas A&M, I thought, uh-oh, they’re going to be mad. I temper that with the realization that ECU will be prepared and focused. I’m not sure how much the ECU coaches may have learned from what Texas A&M did and whether there are factors there that can be corrected in a week or exploited by the Pirates. Mike Davis would appear to be one key. The rushing numbers weren’t that good last week but I guess the Gamecocks were playing from behind and throwing. I’m not going to say I’m expecting ECU to win but I don’t think I’ll be surprised if they do. This is the kind of game for which the Pirates have risen to the occasion in the past.