East Carolina has developed into a solid program, appearing in bowl games five of the last six years, yet there's nothing like taking a shot against the big boys from within its home state.
East Carolina ran out of its ticket allotment for this week's game at North Carolina on Tuesday morning. Winning games against teams like Southern Miss, which East Carolina did last week, is a nice accomplishment but it doesn't come with daily bragging rights.
East Carolina used to play UNC regularly, and then the series took a 20-year hiatus before it returned in 2001. The Pirates have won twice in 14 meetings, in 1975 and on a last-second field goal in 2007. They also were awarded a win from the 2009 game because North Carolina vacated all of its wins from that season, but that doesn't compare to beating the Tar Heels on the field. Ask Western Kentucky, which scored a monumental win against Kentucky last week that will live on for decades among its fans.
Maybe tickets are being gobbled up by Pirates fans because North Carolina seems vulnerable. While East Carolina is off to a 2-1 start, North Carolina's lone win came against lowly Elon. The Tar Heels were shocked by Wake Forest a couple weeks ago, then had a horrible first half against Louisville and a frantic second-half comeback fell short. The Tar Heels defense didn't play well at all in the first half against Louisville. UNC star running back Giovani Bernard has missed two straight games with a knee injury, and while he could be back this week, he might be a bit rusty.
North Carolina is reeling a bit to start the season. East Carolina's defense and special teams played well and the offense came around in the second half of last week's 24-14 win against Southern Miss. A Pirates win would still be a big upset, but it doesn't seem as impossible as it did a couple weeks ago.
East Carolina will shift its focus after this week's game to resuming its Conference USA schedule and trying to get to a bowl game. But a win against the big school from about 100 miles to the west would live on for many years to come.