Pirates ready for heavier load today
So far, nobody can accuse the East Carolina Pirates of just being happy to be here.
With only six days remaining until the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, East Carolina coach Skip Holtz opted for a light warm-up session at Aloha Stadium. Never mind the 2-hour delay before leaving Kingston Airport in North Carolina yesterday that resulted in a 14-hour trip. It's time to get down to business.
If the 7-5 Conference USA representative had an advantage over No. 24 Boise State, it was that the Pirates were supposed to have time to get acclimated to the islands in their farthest road trip in school history; a mere 4,862 miles away from their Greenville, N.C., home.
The warm-up almost didn't happen, but Holtz decided to press on as the stadium lights thrummed to life at dusk. It would have been past 11 p.m. back on the East Coast, but in the coach's mind, there's no rest for the weary or delayed, or any combination thereof.
"I don't want them sitting on an airplane for 14 hours and bring them out here tomorrow and say 'OK, let's go to work!'" said Holtz, in his third year at ECU. "Then everybody's going to be real stiff, and tight, and tired and all those things. So, I figured if I could get them running around here a little bit, we'll have a light little workout today before we come back over here tomorrow in pads."
The 10-2 Broncos, meanwhile, were to land in Honolulu late last night, and begin practice today for the first meeting between the teams.
Holtz debated nixing the practice and going straight to the Sheraton Waikiki hotel, but decided against it.
He guided the Pirates to the Papajohns.com Bowl last year after inheriting a team that had lost 22 of 25 games, but ECU was drubbed 24-7 by South Florida in Birmingham, Ala. Holtz has said that the team was more excited about being in a bowl game than the actual game itself.
This time around, he's OK with letting his team -- a second-place finisher in the CUSA East Division at 6-2 -- have a good time. But he seems to have a good feel for keeping the Pirates' focus in the right place.
"I wanted to get them acclimated to the stadium and the surroundings; we're going to be practicing here every day," Holtz said. "There's so much history with this stadium and they've seen it on television so many times, watching the Hawaii Bowl, watching the Hula Bowl, and watching the Pro Bowl. You've seen this stadium, which has got very distinctive features to it. It's one of those things where they came here, (they) pulled out the cameras and started taking pictures."
Shortly after, it was time to go to work.