Greenville, N.C. – East Carolina’s football team is hungry for a statement win.
Just ask a few of its players.
The Pirates, which came up a few plays shy of defeating ACC foe Virginia Tech in a 15-10 loss on Sept. 14, haven’t knocked off a BCS program since topping N.C. State at home in Ruffin McNeill’s first season at ECU during the 2010 campaign.
That three-year wait is fueling the fire for some players on a program that often used to make its name by taking down upper-echelon competition.
“Honestly, we’re pissed off from last week,” senior fullback/tight end Zico Pasut said of the team’s mindset heading into Saturday’s game against North Carolina. “I don’t want to drop another game. We’re planning on going out there and winning this one like we plan on doing the rest of the season.”
But in order to fulfill that attitude, Pasut and the Pirates will have to get past a Tar Heels team that has had their number of late. UNC has won the last four meetings and 12 of the 15 games overall in the series history.
ECU has been outscored over the last four games by an average of 18.8 points.
Pasut, who’s gone against the Tar Heels himself in the last three seasons, is eager to turn things around in what’s come to be a familiar matchup.
“It’s in-state rivals,” Pasut said. “They’re right down the street. They look at a lot of us as rejects to them. They look at us as a little brother school, and they’re kind of the big brother. So when we go in there, we kind of go with a little pissed off attitude that we feel like they overlook us and don’t take us really for who we are. … We’re going to be blocking our butts off and we’re going to be playing with a lot of emotion.”
Senior running back Vintavious Cooper, a transplant originally from Homerville, Ga., and Southwest Mississippi Community College, got his first taste of the rivalry last year when the two teams met in Chapel Hill in what resulted in a 27-6 win for UNC.
Cooper was just starting to find his rhythm as a Pirate in the fourth week of the 2012 campaign before he busted off a 36-yard run in that contest that went on to spring board him to a breakout season.
“The big run is basically the main thing I remember,” Cooper said while recalling that game. “I could say that was a pretty big run against the Tar Heels and that was one of my biggest memories from last year, but I definitely want to try to repeat what happened last year. But as far as the (final) results, we’re going to try and dictate that a little bit more – make that a little different.”
As part of ECU’s subdued locker room after the close loss to the Hokies, Cooper said the rest of the team feels rejuvenated after sitting on the defeat for nearly two weeks now.
“We’re definitely hungry, extremely hungry,” Cooper said. “The whole team, we already played with a chip on our shoulder and we definitely feel that way now. We know that we were close (against Virginia Tech), and with us, that’s not good enough. We’re excited about this weekend, we’re fired up about this weekend, and we’ll see them on Saturday.”
East Carolina’s defense suffered a major blow on Tuesday when standout junior nose tackle Terry Williams was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules, according to head coach Ruffin McNeill.
McNeill didn’t give specifics of the incident or the long-term ramifications, but Williams was visible at ECU’s practice on Tuesday evening as part of the scout team.
ECU NT Terry Williams was suspended indefinitely on Tuesday.
“I’ve suspended Terry, and he’ll come back when I want him to come back,” McNeill said. “Certain things have been set here since day one, and I think I’ve been pretty consistent on how I feel about that. No egos. No entitlement. Teamwork first. Those things are not going to be compromised no matter who or what it is.”
Williams was also suspended prior to last season for a drug-related citation.
Chrishon Rose, a 6-foot-4, 299-pound junior, is expected to take over as the team’s primary nose tackle going forward. Rose has tallied five tackles, 1.5 TFL and a sack through three games.
Hoist The Colours caught up with head coach Ruffin McNeill, running back Vintavious Cooper, wide receiver Justin Hardy and fullback/tight end Zico Pasut following Tuesday's practice. Listen to the full audio interviews below.
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