Game 16: Central Florida Knights @ East Carolina Pirates
|GAME # 16
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Central Florida Knights: 4-6
Due to Al and Alexis not mastering the basic concepts of 5th grade sex education, this trip was moved from being USC @ Oregon to Central Florida @ East Carolina. Not that I am upset over that, but I have going to Oregon pretty high on my list and the Oregon game was a big one and turned out to be a great game. But Alexis being eight months pregnant, made this be a close to home quick trip as opposed to a cross country extended weekend. We are conducting interviews for a sex education teacher. In any event, off to Greenville, NC we were.
Due to the shortness of this trip, this was actually not an early wake up call. Our flight to Raleigh was not until 5.55pm. This led to other complications as I decided going into work for half a day was just not worth it, so I stayed home. In a very early preview of my retirement, my wife could not wait for me to leave as I was in her way all day without the kids at home (they were at school) as a buffer. I guess I need to be careful as I do not need to give her any more reasons for a divorce.
The trip got off to a good start as it was JetBlue out of JFK. This is definitely the preferred airline and terminal as it is just a smooth process from parking to security to comfort at the airport. Additionally, there were lots of tight black leggings to be seen at JFK. And one really nice pair in particular.
Pre game research came up completely blank on Greenville, NC. I could not come up with a single place to eat or sight to see. That is an ominous sign. But we would just need to wing it, as we usually end up doing anyway.
After careful consideration upon our return from Louisville, I have determined that we are not taking enough pictures and that the quality of our pictures is lacking. I decided that we had to do something about this. I think we failed at East Carolina so this will need to be a focus next year.
I am pleased to report that for the second trip this year, we had a guest quester. A friend of Al’s from high school, Michael P. had decided to join us at East Carolina. He is flying up from Miami. No offense to East Carolina, but his choice of games is questionable, but he is a Canes fan so his overall judgment is highly suspect. A warm college football quest welcome to Mike.
As a tip to future quest guests, if you are going to meet us at a destination airport and you arrive many hours before us, the least you could do is have a funny sign ready for us upon our arrival. What the hell were you doing for four hours?
Road Trip to Greenville
Before picking up the rental car, we discovered an evil little joke that the airport welcome desk plays on unsuspecting visitors. Either that or they are not very bright. We will give them the benefit of the doubt. There is a phone down in the baggage claim areas with a sign that says “Call Welcome Desk”. It does ring the Welcome Desk, which is 10 feet away. You can literally hear the phone ring 10 feet away. It’s like the employees play a game to see how many fools will actually call.
Anyway, we picked up the rental car and were on our way for the 90 miles or so drive to Greenville. The car, a Hyundai Sonata, was much better than the Dodge we were stuck with in Louisville. Before we got outside Raleigh, it was determined that a BBQ pit stop was needed. Mike, his Ipad, and Foursquare led us to Ole Time BBQ. It was pulled pork all around. Despite Mike’s assertion that “This could be the best meal ever”, the general consensus was that the pulled pork was just ok, but the sides were phenomenal. If you are ever there, you must get the sweet potato sticks and apple sticks. These are NOT fries. These are sweet potatoes and apple compote deep fried that ooze when you bite into them. These were perfection. The apple cobbler dessert was awesome as was the banana crème pie, which we learned has actual bananas in it unlike their competitors.
After fueling up with some southern BBQ, we were back on the road to Greenville. It was a mostly uneventful drive, which is how I like my drives to go. It was dark and there was no scenery. However, upon reaching the outskirts of Greenville, we happened upon a drunken girl who could not manage to stay close to the road, let alone her lane. We had quite the time following her (from a safe distance) to ensure that she got home without killing anyone. In following her, we ended up quite close to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Therefore, we just had to try and get in. Alas, the stadium was locked up tight, so we headed to the hotel. TomTom led us slightly astray, but we eventually found the Wingate by Wyndham, our home for the next two nights. We parked our car and wondered aloud if our car would still be there in the morning due to the number of sketchy characters loitering in the parking lot.
Kickoff would be at 7pm, which gave us plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere before the game. Breakfast was Ihop and its very dangerous Cinn-A-Stacks pancakes. These have to be over 10,000 calories, but they are incredibly good, especially drizzled with butter pecan and strawberry syrup. Low carb diet starts after Thanksgiving. Over breakfast, Mike gave us the overview of Foursquare as Mike could not stop checking in everywhere. Congrats, he is now the mayor of our booth at the Ihop in Greenville, NC. That and $2.25 gets you on a NYC subway. But I fear that November 19, 2011 at 10:47am when Al is introduced to Foursquare and the “Occupy” College Football Quest movement will be a day and time that goes down in infamy.
After breakfast we were off to the ECU campus to do our best to support the local economy. The on campus bookstore was a little light on merchandise so we asked if there was another place to go shopping. We were referred to an off campus store that might have a little bit more. Talk about underselling. The off campus store had “a plethora of piñatas” and other stuff. Money spent off campus. We wandered around campus a little bit more and then it was time to head to the stadium and tailgating.
Upon my initial contact to ECU administration, I was put in touch with Troy Dreyfus at Pirate Radio. He graciously offered to host us at his tailgate for the afternoon festivities. I am not sure if it was a conscious thing on his part, but he also gave us the perfect place to park for the game, which did not seem as easy as it should be at a 50,000 seat stadium.
Anyway, we met up with Troy early afternoon and it seemed like the tailgating was quite festive for such a long time before kickoff. Troy told us that it was still light but would pick up later. To us, for not an elite football program, the tailgate turnout was quite impressive especially so early. It was easy to see that this place could be quite insane earlier in the season with hope for a successful season still alive. In any event it was quite impressive in the early going.
Troy introduced us to his partner Jonathan and some others who were hanging out. CollegeFootballQuest.com extends a heartfelt thank you to Troy and Jonathan for hosting us, giving us some valuable insight into ECU football, and ultimately hooking us up with the front row game tickets.
We spent the afternoon tailgating with the guys at Pirate Radio 1250 & 930 and meeting some very interesting people from the head of the alumni association to local politicians to athletic department
staff. Troy was able to fill us in on the real “No Quarter” story, instead of the frat boy who told us it just meant “we give them nothing”. We felt there had to be a lot more to it than that and Troy confirmed it by giving us the real story involving pirate flags and the like. Troy also filled us in on other Pirate game day traditions such as the No Quarter flag and First down….Pirates…..Arrrrgh.
Troy also had the courage to do what few others in the past have had the bravery to do. He did a live remote interview with me from the tailgate about our quest that was broadcast on Pirate Radio. The interview was about four minutes and we got into an interesting discussion. The reviews from Al and Mike, who were listening on the simulcast, were good. But in listening myself, I really have to figure out a way to cut down on the “um’s” in the future, since this media thing looks like it is going to have some staying power. But it went very well. Al even had the foresight to record the interview, as we have learned that it is very hard to get these things after the fact.
As time passed and it got closer to kickoff, we went exploring around into other tailgate areas. I have to say that I was quite impressed with the size and amount of tailgates there were. My expectations were that this would be more of a smaller town, smaller school environment. This was not the case.
Skip Holtz had a level of consistent success within Conference USA that ECU had not had prior to his arrival. There was an aberration season of 1991 where ECU was on the national scene, but that level of success was not repeated. Skip Holtz brought the team to a level where they were competing for Conference USA titles and bowl game appearances every year. In early 2010, Skip Holtz left for South Florida. Coach McNeill needs to keep the momentum that Skip Holtz built. This is a program that could really rise up but the momentum must be kept going. It is much easier to maintain a level of success than it is to build one up from the ground. There is a lot of potential here and there is a lot riding on Coach McNeill elevating the program from its current level. This was a November game, at night, in the cold, with the team sitting at 4-6, yet the pre game party atmosphere was in stark contrast to that. This program could really rise up and be on the fringes of national prominence, but they are at a critical stage and must keep the momentum from the Skip Holtz era or they risk falling back into mediocrity.
It would also not be a quest game without a word about the weather. It was an absolutely beautiful day; shorts, t shirts, and the like. However, the weather was forecasted to drop to 40 degrees during the game. As I have said before, how the hell do you pack for that? Seventy during the day, forty at night, sucks. That is impossible to pack for. Anyway, before the game, we headed back to the car to go from shorts, to layers. That being done, we headed inside for some football.
Prior to kickoff, Al and I both picked UCF. Our picks were the same all year. Either we need to pick more evenly balanced games or Al needs to stop copying me. I jest as we both make our picks independently and then reveal at the same time. We settled into our 35 yard line, 1st row chair back seats. Nice! Excellent stadium design as the first row is actually elevated and we could see over the players.
The crowd was early arriving and quite boisterous. The stadium did not hold noise very well and it was really not that loud. The announced attendance of 50,277 (capacity 50,000) was just not possible. My best guess would be 45,000 as the corners and upper deck were not quite full, but given all the circumstances, I was surprised that the attendance was as large as it was given this was essentially a bowl elimination game. It was also a boisterous crowd.
The game itself was a back and forth affair that the Pirates pulled out 38-31. It started out with UCF taking the open kickoff on a 12 play 6 minute drive for a touchdown. ECU tied it up with 3 minutes left in the first and took the lead on a field goal at the end of the first quarter. After forcing a punt on UCF’s opening possession of the second, ECU extended its lead to 17-7 with a nice seven yard touchdown pass. This was with 10:45 left in the second. ECU did not get a first down for the rest of the half. UCF had an 11 play touchdown drive to make it 17-14 and a 10 play drive to tie it up at 17. I am not a time of possession guy as I much prefer total plays, but by either measure UCF was dominating, with almost a 2:1 time of possession and a 44-27 edge in number of plays.
ECU pulled ahead in the third quarter on an 84 yard touchdown pass. UCF took the next possession down to the ECU 2 yard line, but was stopped on the next four runs to turn the ball over on downs. ECU quickly turned the ball over which led to a UCF touchdown tying the score at 24.
After trading punts to open the fourth quarter ECU went on a 10 play touchdown drive concluding with a TD pass to Wiggins to take a 31-24 lead. After a UCF punt, ECU fumbled deep in their own territory leading to the tying UCF TD. ECU needed just four plays on the ensuing possession to go up 38-31. In typical back and forth fashion, UCF returned the following kickoff 72 yards to the ECU 14. The ECU defense held and ECU wins 38-31. This was an exciting back and forth game. Reese Wiggins had the player of the game honors catching 6 passes for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns. Boy is he fast.
As an aside to the game, #33 for ECU, Danny Webster got injured early in the game. It was at this point that he came to our attention. We had a great view of the ECU bench from the first row. Mr. Webster is the yenta of ECU. After getting injured, he became Mr. Mayor of the ECU sidelines. He spent hours chasing people and just talking about anything and everything. I think some of his teammates actually ran away from him. He missed a great game as he was mostly seen with his back to the field or sitting on a bench seeking out someone to talk to. A drinking game sure to result in death would be to take a drink every time Mr. Webster found someone new to talk to.
After the game, it was a hunt to find dinner. We ended up at the Greenville Hooters right in the middle of an MMA main event. We had to wait until it ended to get some football on the tv’s. The Greenville Hooters is not one of the better Hooters locations. After dinner, it was back to the hotel.
Sunday led to an early wakeup to make it back to Raleigh in time for our flights. But first, of course, we headed over to the stadium for the usual kicking of the field goals. Al did not bring the ball, so this was going to be especially difficult. But alas, the stadium was locked up solid. So, onto the airport.
We arrived at Raleigh with plenty of time to make our flights. I must mention that RDU is surprisingly large. I know that there are many fine universities in the area, but this does not normally merit such a large airport. If I truly cared I would find out what in Raleigh is supporting such a large airport, but I don’t really care.
I must close with a report on my experience with the TSA at RDU. We have traveled quite extensively on these quest trips and I also travel a bit for work that includes international flights. I have not experienced such inept TSA work as at RDU. My carry on bag normally contains a GPS (TomTom sponsor please) and one of those bean bag weights that you attach the GPS to so that it stays on the dashboard. In the beginning, the TSA screeners could not tell what it was, so when I told them, they reran the bean bag through the machine and all was good. In recent years, most TSA screeners knew exactly what it was and it is no longer an issue, until RDU. The TSA screener had trouble identifying what it was, so I told them. They wanted to rerun my bag with all of the contents out of my bag emptied out into the gray bins. I was informed that the screener did not know what a GPS was and if the screener does not know what something is, then the whole contents of my bag get dumped. They literally dumped my entire bag, because even though everyone in the world has heard of a GPS, this screener did not. Can this really be their policy and do they normally have someone that stupid in charge of something so important? Did the TSA agent really say to me, you should take that out each time, especially at this airport? What the hell does that mean? Is RDU not trained as well? Does RDU not know about advances in technology such as GPS? What a stupid comment! I am sure I was misinformed somewhere along the way, but it does not change the fact that my entire bag was dumped and quite rudely. I guess the theater of airport security is alive and well in RDU. At what point will this country realize that airport security is just a show and that they will never catch any wrongdoers but focusing on those security breaches that have occurred in the past. Let’s keep making 95 year olds and 3 year olds strip search while we continue to ignore the overwhelming evidence by almost every other country in the world that behavioral profiling is much more effective. Rant over.
The flight back to JFK was uneventful. A special thank you goes out to Troy and Jonathan and all the folks at Pirate Radio for being great hosts during our trip to ECU. Go Pirates!
> Wingate by Wyndham
> Pirate Radio
> IHOP as Official Spokesman of the Cinn-A-Stacks pancakes
This was a bowl elimination game as both teams needed to win their last two games to become bowl eligible. Both teams finished 5-7 and neither made a bowl game.
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