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WOODWARD: Motivated Pirates deliver for Carolinas

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East Carolina receiver Trevon Brown looks for running room Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, September 24, 2018

TAMPA, Fla.

Sweat flung from Alex Turner’s face outside the visiting locker room at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday night as he participated in interviews following East Carolina football’s 20-13 loss to 4-0 South Florida.

It was a sweaty scene like what is becoming a staple in post-practice interviews with Turner at the Cliff Moore Practice Facility on East Carolina’s campus, except the 293-pound defensive lineman was far from Greenville.

It was technically not Saturday night, either, because midnight had passed and early Sunday morning meant the Pirates were into their 12th straight day in Florida.

They made the correct call of fleeing North Carolina for Orlando before Hurricane Florence hit. The team traveled from Orlando to Tampa on Friday and flew from Tampa to Greenville after Saturday’s loss. Hopefully team members and staff settled in for needed rest in their own beds Sunday morning upon arrival.

The Pirates could have folded sometime during their Sunshine State journey, but they didn’t.

Turner played a great game. In addition to 1.5 sacks, he even found the drive to bust through the USF line and block an extra-point attempt during the first quarter.

Trevon Brown was the best receiver on the field, backed by his 99 yards on six receptions. It is doubtful that many people in the stands knew Brown is a Wilmington native and his mom lost her house during Florence’s impact.

East Carolina’s roster is comprised mostly of in-state players. That has made for a stressful second half of September.

These ECU players had stories to tell about the damage and concern Florence caused, but the Pirates were mostly mum during game week about their less-than-ideal situation. Even after the loss, which was a closer defeat than what was expected and much closer than the 61-31 decision in favor of the Bulls a year ago, they didn’t harp on being displaced and out of their comfort zone for longer than a week.

It would have been acceptable for them to make excuses. There is no doubt they were ready to get back home, but it didn’t show with their play on the field.

ECU even wore a special helmet with the Pirate logo not only inside North Carolina, but the addition of South Carolina for the decal displayed the team’s desire to play with passion for “One Carolina.”

USF won the game on two long touchdowns. The Pirates ran away with the yardage battle, finishing with a 412-296 advantage thanks to a persistent defense and quality run game.

Like ECU (1-2) didn’t dwell on its situation, there is no need to dwell on the Pirates’ 20-13 loss. There are plenty of days in the future to break down the football details and aspects of this team.

What came into focus the most Saturday night was an East Carolina club motivated to not only represent themselves, a university and a proud region of North Carolina, but playing for anyone who is still struggling because of Hurricane Florence. Mission accomplished, even in defeat.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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