Wilson excited about opportunity|ECU senior hoping for another C-USA championship

Published 8:15 am Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sports Editor

GREENVILLE — When C.J. Wilson bolts out of the ship and through the purple smoke onto the field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, the East Carolina senior will be doing so for the final time in his college career. He couldn’t have asked for a better finish.
Wilson and his Pirates (8-4), the Conference USA East champions, play host to the No. 18 Houston Cougars (10-2), winners of the C-USA West, in today’s C-USA championship game. The game, which kicks off at noon, will be televised on ESPN2.
The Pirates are looking for their second straight conference championship, and a trip to the Liberty Bowl.
“We just want to take another (title),” Wilson said. “We want some jewelry. We want to go to a good bowl.”
Wilson, a former star at Northside High School, will likely be playing in the NFL next year. The 6-4, 290-pound defensive end is hoping to relish the final two games of his Pirate career.
“I have to thank the Lord for giving me the opportunity to be here,” Wilson said. “I’ve been very blessed with a great family.
“I’m blessed to be here at East Carolina, which is close to home. It just means a lot to be playing for the Purple and Gold. I just have a lot to be thankful for.”
Wilson, a fan favorite who wears No. 95, which can be seen sprinkled throughout the stadium on any given Saturday, helped lead ECU to the championship game with an incredible individual effort. His blocked PAT, and return of 75 yards for 2 points, helped the Pirates knock off Southern Miss, 25-20, in the regular season finale.
The affable Wilson has been making big plays all season. He has 53 tackles, including 9.5 tackles-for-loss (38 yards), 5.5 sacks (19 yards in loss), 11 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and two blocked kicks this season.
In his career, Wilson has 27 sacks, 44.5 tackles-for-loss, 33 quarterback hurries and 188 tackles.
The numbers don’t matter to Wilson. He’s more concerned with helping his team win another C-USA championship.
Wilson, the C-USA Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, realizes the defense must play well against the high-scoring Cougars, who average just under 45 points and 583 yards of offense per game. Case Keenum, Houston’s talented quarterback, has thrown for 4,922 yards and 38 touchdown passes (against just six interceptions).
“Houston is a great team,” Wilson said. “Their quarterback is playing unbelievable. I’ve seen him throw for 500 yards in one game, and that’s amazing.
“We know it’s going to be a hard task. We’re ready for the challenge.”
ECU head coach Skip Holtz said Wilson and the other defensive linemen need to play a big game in order for the Pirates to be successful.
"It's very important to get pressure from the defensive line,” Holtz said. “We're going to have to mix things up. If you try and play them in zone, for a guy like Keenum, it's going to be like going against a pass skeleton. He'll get rid of the ball in a hurry. You're not going to get to a guy like him an awful lot unless things break down.”
The ever-gracious and outgoing Wilson, as always, simply appreciates having the chance to play.
“Thank God for my opportunity,” Wilson said.