Liberty Bowl Week: Razorback Fans Get To Know East Carolina Via a Pirate

Blake StansberyCorrespondent IDecember 29, 2009

GREENVILLE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05:  Fans of the East Carolina Pirates celebrates before the start of their game against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Greenville, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It is Liberty Bowl week, and the streets of Memphis are beginning to fill with Arkansas and East Carolina fans and media members.

There have been a series of previews provided already in an attempt to bring Hog fans up to speed on the Pirates.

Still it seems that what most Hog fans have grasped about ECU is that they play in Conference USA, they won Conference USA (two years in a row), and Skip Holtz (son of Lou Holtz) is their coach.

In an effort to get Hog fans more knowledge on the Pirates prior to kickoff on Saturday, I reached out to Denny O'Brien of with a few questions.

The Q&A is below, and should share some insight with the Hog fan that loves "insider" information. Enjoy.

Q : How does the East Carolina team and fans feel about going to the Liberty Bowl for the second year in a row and facing Arkansas?

O'Brien: Both the team and fans are excited about going to the Liberty Bowl because it means the Pirates are Conference USA champions again.  Ideally, would the team and fans like to be in a different bowl and in a different location?  Yes, providing that that bowl was at least equivalent to the Liberty Bowl and that ECU was facing a school from a BCS automatic qualifier conference.

The team and fans are excited about playing Arkansas because it is from the SEC.  There is probably more excitement about playing the Hogs than there was against Kentucky last season because there will be a better environment.  But truthfully, the excitement would have been about the same had ECU been playing Auburn, South Carolina, or a handful of other SEC clubs.

Q: What should every Arkansas fan know about the ECU defense?

O'Brien: The strength of this ECU defense is its front four.  The Pirates don’t blitz very often because they are capable of applying pressure with their defensive front.  Senior defensive end C.J. Wilson gets a lot of the press, but junior defensive tackle Linval Joseph might have had the biggest impact this season.

Generally speaking, the Pirates give up their share of yards between the 20s.  But in the red zone, the ECU defense typically toughens.  This might be the Pirates‘ toughest test in terms of the offensive personnel they are facing.  It will be interesting to see how they respond. 

Q: What should every Razorback fan know about the Pirates offense?

O'Brien: Junior receiver Dwayne Harris is a playmaker who gets the ball in a variety of ways.  He was the Conference USA special teams Player of the Year after returning three kickoffs for touchdowns this season.  He also was first team All-C-USA as a receiver and is a threat to go the distance anytime he touches the ball.  Harris doesn’t have Chris Johnson-like speed, but he is very elusive in the open field.  He also has a very strong lower body and is hard to tackle.

The offensive line was the catalyst to ECU’s success down the stretch.  This group was very good at protecting quarterback Patrick Pinkney, who hasn’t been sacked since the Virginia Tech game on Nov. 5.  The offensive front also paved the way for a 1,000-yard rushing performance by Dominique Lindsay—and that was with him missing more than two games due to injury.

Q: Where on the field do you feel East Carolina has an advantage over Arkansas?

O'Brien: Probably experience.  There are 28 seniors on this ECU team, and it’s a group that has the chance to become the winningest senior class in school history if it beats Arkansas.  These seniors have beaten North Carolina, North Carolina State, Boise State, Virginia Tech, Virginia, and West Virginia during their careers, so they won’t be intimidated by the logo on Arkansas’ helmets.

ECU’s seniors have also been to four straight bowl games, so they are very familiar with bowl week protocol.  They’ll likely view their third trip to Memphis over the last calendar year strictly as a business one.

Q: What is your prediction for the game?

O'Brien: I don’t have one because bowl games are so difficult to predict.  With so many weeks between games, you can certainly see where at least one team—if not both—will be a little rusty.  If you had to pick on paper which team would have the advantage, obviously you’d go with Arkansas.  But these games aren’t won by talent alone, and the ECU senior class has been in enough wars with AQ schools over the past four years to be mentally ready for Arkansas.

I do predict that there will be more points scored in this game than in the ECU-Kentucky matchup that featured two very good defenses.  It should be a fun game to watch.

Q: For the Razorback fan looking to find out more or to spark a good debate with Pirate fans, what message boards or sites would you point Hogs' fans to?

O'Brien: That would have to be  There are a couple of other message boards where ECU fans gather, but this easily is the most visited one.  You’ll find good debate there, and no shortage of self-proclaimed “insiders”.  If you take message boards for what they are—entertaining online outlets that make sports more fun to watch—then you’ll definitely enjoy BoneyardBanter., for which I write a weekly column and cover all ECU games, is a site dedicated to providing columns, analysis, audio, recruiting, and other features by members of the ECU media.  You can also find a daily roundup of links to all of the news pertaining to ECU sports, the Carolinas, and Conference USA. This is an independent site that does not contain a message board, which makes it unique when comparing it to most sites that are dedicated to covering a specific college.

So there you have it Hog fans—insight from a Pirate—and I was able to get it without stepping anywhere near the plank.

As the Hogs and Pirates polish up their final week of preparation leading up to the Saturday showdown, I will continue to bring you news and updates as well as my prediction.

I would like to send a big thank you out one more time to Denny O'Brien for taking the time to answer a few questions and wish everyone safe travels to the game and a happy New Year.

Continue to visit Bleacher Report and the Arkansas Razorback Community for the latest news and updates.

You can also follow me on Twitter @Stansbery.


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