"Celebration" blared from the Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium sound system as East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill slowly walked off the field shaking hands with well-wishers before he pointed to the fans, and then to his heart.
Behind him, the scoreboard displayed the source of the jubilation: East Carolina 70, North Carolina 41.
It was indeed a moment to celebrate good times for a majority of the stadium-record 51,082 fans that showed up to see ECU (3-1, 0-0 AAC) earn its fourth straight victory over an ACC team and its second consecutive blowout over the Tar Heels.
"(The win) means that (the players and coaches) are happy. It means that their families are happy and that means a lot," McNeill said. "To see our fans come out and support us like they always do It means they're happy.
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"It's not about me. I'm good. But, when I see our coaches, players, our families, my wife, our babies, that's me right there. I'm blessed and humbled to be a part of it, really."
So what makes McNeill happy? That would be the statements made by his team with each passing week.
"I'm watching for improvement in all areas of the team," McNeill said on Saturday. "It was great to win the game, first of all, we were able to beat another nationally ranked opponent, but it was good to see our kids continue to push and fight."
That progress has propelled the Pirates to a No. 23 ranking in the latest AP poll. It's the first time the program has had a number before its name since 2008.
East Carolina started off the season with a 52-7 win over FCS-level N.C. Central. It was an expected outcome, but the five QB hurries, three tackles for a loss and one sack allowed was a bit of a concern for an ECU offensive line that replaced three starters from a season ago.
Playing on the road the next week against then-ranked No. 21 South Carolina, the unit put those worries to rest. East Carolina kept the Gamecocks from recording a sack and permitted only two tackles for a loss. Quarterback Shane Carden was hurried seven times, but some of those were a byproduct of holding on to the ball too long.
The Pirates fell to South Carolina, 33-23, and new questions arose, this time, questions surrounding their inability to cash in on early trips to the red zone. They would linger throughout the week as ECU prepared to face then-ranked No. 17 Virginia Tech on the road.
"These games, playing top nationally ranked teams like we have, they bring out the strengths and they bring out the weakness pretty quickly," McNeill said.
The questions they carried to Blacksburg never returned to Greenville. East Carolina moved quickly to right the wrongs of the previous week with a statement-making first quarter that saw the Pirates score touchdowns on three of their first four drives to build up a 21-7 halftime lead.
The Pirates also removed the second-half roadblock that has stood in the way of the end zone in their previous three clashes with Virginia Tech. During the McNeill era, East Carolina has never trailed the Hokies after the first two quarters, but has never come away with a win, managing only a field goal after halftime in all three bouts.
The Pirates were in a midst of another late collapse in Round 4 when Tech tied the game at 21 with 1:20 remaining in the fourth. However, ECU shed its second half woes, racing 65 yards up field on three plays to score the game-winning touchdown with 16 seconds to spare.
"The strength of us is our team intangibles and team chemistry that I've talked about in previous interviews," McNeill said. "(The players) understand that when we work as one breath, one mind, one heartbeat, one spirit, one Pirate, we'll be OK."