Pirates preparing for strange schedule|Harris honored by conference

Published 12:13 am Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sports Writer

GREENVILLE – The good news is that East Carolina finally put together a complete four-quarter effort and eclipsed the 30-point mark for the first time this season when it beat Rice 49-13 on Saturday. The bad news is that they will have to hope the momentum from that win can carry over for 10 days.
For the next few weeks the Conference USA East-leading Pirates (4-3, 3-1) will play a quirky schedule that begins on the road with a C-USA showdown with Memphis (2-5, 1-3) next Tuesday (Oct. 27, 8 p.m., ESPN2) before they play a Thursday night contest at home on Nov. 5 against No. 15 Virginia Tech (ACC). After that, ECU will take travel to take on Tulsa for a Sunday night game (Nov. 15).
The odd schedule is one that East Carolina coach Skip Holtz said he will just have to figure out as he goes along in regards to when and how much to practice his players.
As for playing Memphis on Tuesday night, Holtz said it has its pros and cons.
“I love the exposure. I know I enjoy going home on Tuesday night, eating dinner and watching the second half on TV. Now that I have to go be part of it, though, I don’t think I’m as excited about it,” Holtz said. “It changes your schedule. We have a real unique situation because we’re playing Tuesday, Thursday and then Sunday. But our next three games are also going to be on national television on ESPN. That’s an exposure that you can’t get on Saturday. There are certainly tradeoffs for it.”
The extra time between games will certainly give running back Dominique Lindsay some time to rest his ankle, which he injured during the Rice game Saturday.
Lindsay led the Pirates in rushing with 78 yards on 12 carries despite leaving in the second quarter. Holtz said Lindsay’s ankle is swollen, and that he is walking on it. Holtz presented no time table for his return, saying that it could either be a few days or a few weeks.
Lindsay is officially listed as questionable for Tuesday’s game.
There is no question that sophomore backup linebacker Matt Thompson will be out this week, and possibly for the season. Holtz said that Thompson has an elbow injury that could need surgery. Thompson racked up 20 tackles in 7 games.
Aside from the obstacles that injuries will present on Tuesday, the biggest challenge the Pirates will have to overcome is the height of Memphis’ two star receivers, Duke Calhoun and Carlos Singleton.
Both are senior wideouts who currently have, or are on the door step of, several school receiving records despite never really playing with a strong quarterback.
The 6-9 Singleton is currently averaging 46 yards per catch and has 20 receptions on the year, while Calhoun is having one of the best seasons of any C-USA receiver out there.
The 6-4 Calhoun leads the conference with 666 receiving yards, while his 40 grabs are seventh overall in C-USA.
Holtz said defending the duo is a giant task.
“You challenge your players. Calhoun is 6-foot-4 and our corners, Emanuel Davis and Travis Simmons, aren’t even six feet tall. Maybe that means we have Darryl Reynolds (6-1) play a bigger role as a cornerback. We’ll just have to look at it this week,” Holtz said. “You can’t put those corners on an island out there. We’re going to have to roll safeties over the top, double-team them, mix up coverages and keep them guessing. That way, when our corners are out on an island, the offense can’t gear into that particular play.”
Calhoun’s and Singleton’s numbers would probably be higher if Memphis had a steady signal-caller. The team has played all three of its quarterbacks in seven games. Last year’s starter, Arkelon Hall, is now the backup. Replacement Tyler Bass, who is more of a running QB, is set to have-season ending surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder today, leaving senior Will Hudgens to start against ECU.
Hudgens has played in five games, started in two, and is hitting on 56 percent of his passes (54-96) for 638 yards, five TDs, and four picks.
Memphis will also attack with one of the best running backs in Conference USA in Curtis Steele. An all-conference back last year, Steele is averaging 103 rushing yards per game despite missing some time with a bone bruise.
A doctor in the house
When ECU plays at Memphis Tuesday, calling the game for ESPN2 will be Reece Davis, Mark May and Skip’s father, Lou Holtz.
Skip said the fast pace of the college football season makes it hard for him to see his family, and that he will enjoy having his dad at the game.
“It’ll be great to see him because this time of year I don’t get to be around him much because he’s in Connecticut with ESPN,” Holtz said. “He’ll get a chance to watch our football team play up close and personal. He comes every year to spring practice and usually sees a fall scrimmage. During those scrimmages, I give him a pad of paper and tell him to write down all his notes and we’ll talk about it after. He has been very beneficial. It has been really helpful for me to get another opinion. It’ll be great to get him an opportunity to see the game.”
Harris honored by C-USA
IRVING, Texas – Junior wide receiver and return specialist Dwayne Harris, who brought back a kickoff for a touchdown and led East Carolina in all-purpose yardage for the fifth time this season during the Pirates’ 49-13 win over Rice Saturday, was named Conference USA Special Teams Player-of-the-Week according to an announcement by the league Monday afternoon. For the second time in as many games, Harris returned a kickoff for a touchdown to spark the Pirates’ special teams play. After bringing one back 77 yards vs. SMU a week earlier, he returned a Rice boot 92 yards for a score Saturday. The return ranked as the 10th-longest in ECU history and was the longest since Chris Johnson had a pair of 96-yarders in 2006 and 2007. Harris’ back-to-back return scores also tied a school single-season record for most KO scoring returns, last set in 1983 by Henry Williams. He accounted for a career-high 264 all-purpose yards and a personal-best three total touchdowns, which also included two scoring receptions.