His increasingly desperate queries to reporters and Greenville-based hard rock bands unanswered, SMQ freaked and hijacked the nearest available person for his weekly conversation about Southern Miss' upcoming opponent. It just so happens this person was Brian Stouffer from House Rock Built, who, in fact, is a Notre Dame fan in Chicago and has never heard of Southern Miss or East Carolina.
SMQ and new Pirate fan Stouffer met over braised calamari kabobs with raspberry-infused ketchup to discuss the role of environment in the development of personality, the future intellectual viability of geographic determinism and advancing the claim that moral actors are best understood as substitution instances occupying argument places in a schema formed in predicate calculus. Stouffer also lost the captain's hook SMQ attached to his hand when he broke free from his stocks and ran out screaming on his handsome new peg leg, if anyone has an address for him or something.
SMQ: The name "East Carolina" is probably the most geographically confusing in the nation, because it sounds like an actual state sitting out in the Atlantic Ocean. How did the school have the fortune to avoid being dubbed "Mideastern North Carolina Tech," or just "UNC-Greenville," like all those other UNC-[insert location]s up there?
BS: Funny story, actually. It all traces back to a high-stakes back-alley poker game between North Carolina Senator Furnifold McLendel Simmons and ECU President Angus T. "Redshanks" Verhoven on a sweltering night in June of 1908. Anyway, long story short, a flush beats a straight, the name "East Carolina" was granted to the fledgling university, and three of the good senator's children were, in fact, fathered by Verhoven.
A picture of Senator Simmons. To the best knowledge of historians, no photograph has ever been taken of the reclusive, eccentric, and salty Angus Verhoven.
SMQ: ECU entered Conference USA expecting to immediately compete with Southern Miss as the league's premiere program, but has not come close, and in fact, some USM fans have indicated a loss to East Carolina would be akin to the second sign of the football apocalypse. Are conditions present for the Hattiesburg moon to run red over Eagle defeat Saturday?
BS: Expectations in Greenville are high, but tempered. This boost in confidence is mainly because of the fresh new attitude that the Pirates have been displaying out on the field. While in years past, they played tentative and scared, this year's team is sharp and completely focused on its single goal: causing as many career-ending injuries as possible.
SMQ: The Pirates' offensive skill talent has been around forever. James Pinkney has taken his lumps against Southern Miss the past two seasons, but the passing game ranks 16th nationally this year and the offense has scored at least 31 on Memphis, Virginia and SMU in the last five games. How different is this attack from the inept units USM has faced the past five years? How much is attributable to Pinkney? To Skip Holtz?
BS: Every ECU insider knows that Skip Holtz is nothing but a figurehead. The entire show is being run by Lou Holtz. As a matter of fact, Lou serves as the offensive coordinator for ECU's games while in-studio. He has a four-inch portable television under his desk and a wireless headset in his ear that connects him directly to the ECU sideline.
SMQ: What aspects of the Southern Miss game are troublesome from a Pirate perspective? The 103rd-ranked rushing defense suggests possible gorging by Damion Fletcher after an injury and suspension-riddled month that put too much on the underwhelming USM passing game.
BS: Well, the game is being played in Hattiesburg, which, I'm sure you already know, boasts the highest per capita ratio of transgendered individuals in the world. Suffice to say, making the road trip the Hattiesburg and enjoying the night life there requires the utmost of caution and preparation, and any momentary lapse in judgment can end in an embarrassing situation for the coaches or players.
[That's actually a lot closer to the truth than I'm comfortable admitting - ed.]
SMQ: Say "sing Shoshona a sea shanty" five times fast, then make a prediction.
BS: I'm seeing a lot of safeties and at least one free-kick. Let's say, 11-5, ECU.
Brian Stouffer blogs relentlessly about everything except Conference USA at House Rock Built. Southern Miss and East Carolina kick off at 6:30 p.m. Central Saturday in Hattiesburg.