GREENVILLE, N.C. - With an opportunity to turn the corner, East Carolina hits the road to New Orleans to take on Tulane in the Superdome.
Things may not have started off as well as hoped for this season, but the Pirates have grinded it out every week and now they enter this one with big picture ambitions.
The big news of the day was the departure of quarterback Rio Johnson from the program. Coach McNeill said Johnson made the decision during the off week and left the team on amicable terms.
Justin Dixon and Jonathan White are out for this week. Dixon is out for the remainder of the season with an injury, of course. Brandon Williams and Cody Lyons are battling hamstring injuries and remain questionable while inside receiver Justin Hardy did practice on Sunday night in a limited fashion in shells. ECU will monitor his progress as the week progresses.
ECU(6-4) will go through a week of focused prep to get ready for the Green Wave. In the process this ballclub will try to exorcise enough demons to get to 7-4 for the first time in the Ruffin McNeill regime.
McNeill talked about some of the keys to success this week against the Green Wave who come in at only 2-8 and only have two wins in Conference USA this season.
"The main thing is to focus on us, said McNeill, and what we have to do to have the best week of preparation possible. Execution wise and fundamental wise this is a big week. I want this team to have a clear mind as a group and have a great week of preparation. It's the fourth quarter of the season and we want to do a good job of finishing well. How we practice and focus is how we will play."
The team practiced three days last week and lifted on four days. They began to expose the team to what Tulane does along with work on fundamentals, group with good on good along with some skelly and team reps. ECU even had a scrimmage last week with some of the players who haven't played very much along with a lot of the current redshirts.
This week thus becomes a pretty big deal, regardless of opponent. Rest assured, that anyone can beat anyone on a given day if you aren't attentive to business.
For McNeill, things could have gone far worse this year. It may prove that the football gods are with 'ol #44 afterall, but he will be the first to tell you that wins aren't easy to come by. Especially when
you are breaking in new quarterbacks and a new running back. Let alone spotting the schedule two games before quarterback Shane Carden ever began to gain some in game experience.
This could turn out to be an interesting ride for the rest of this season and for a few more to come if all goes well over the course of the next few weeks.
Catch PI-TV video of Ruffin McNeill's Tulane Monday Press Conference from Ward Building on the campus of East Carolina University here on PirateIllustrated.com.