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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Thursday, September 26, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Young Gun faces stiff challenge, big opportunity



Also on Bonesville today:

Al Myatt dishes out the lowdown on ECU offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler.  Click here for the Coach 'Shank' file...





Paul Troth has an opportunity to do something no other East Carolina quarterback has done — direct the offense in a Pirates victory over West Virginia in Morgantown.

ECU has had an open date in the aftermath of its first win in the Troth era and should be well-prepared for its trip to the Big East Conference stronghold.

“Nobody from here has ever won up there,” Troth said. “We feel that if we can get a win here we can beat anybody if we just execute. Now the hard part is going to be execution.

"We’re going to be in hostile territory. There are going to be fans there that say things you don’t like but our focus this week is just going out there and playing Pirate football.

“If we win, it’s going to be something big and special as the fans already know.”

Mountaineer Field has a new surface, AstroPlay, a synthetic grass. It’s the same product that Army installed before the 2001 season on Blaik Field at Michie Stadium in West Point. The Pirates found it to their liking as they romped to a 49-26 win over the Cadets last year. Troth was 1 of 3 passing, a 5-yard gain for his only completion of his freshman season at Army last season.

“I like it (AstroPlay),” Troth said. “Some guys don’t like it but I like it because you can wear cleats on there and you don’t have to worry about the rug burns — not playing on carpet. It’s just as fast I think as (AstroTurf) turf.”

Troth threw seven interceptions in ECU’s first two games but the Pirates were turnover free in their 24-20 Conference USA win over Tulane. After throwing 31 times at Duke and 41 times at Wake, Troth attempted just 18 passes against the Green Wave as the running game netted a season-high 226 yards — including 185 by junior back Art Brown.

“We had a great running game (against Tulane) and it gave everybody a chance to see that we can throw the ball and run the ball,” Troth said. “The bad part was that we threw the ball only 18 times but we didn’t have to throw the ball.”

The open date has given the sophomore quarterback an opportunity to put the fourth start of his career in perspective. Troth felt he was too conservative against Tulane, too afraid of hurting his team with a mistake. ECU’s 92 passing yards against Tulane were the least in a game for the Pirates since David Garrard threw for just 55 in sloppy conditions in a 14-9 win at Southern Miss in 2000.

“The fact of me going out there trying not to make mistakes added to the bad numbers, the bad execution of the passing game,” Troth said. “You can’t go out there trying not to make mistakes. You’ve got to go out there and try to make plays. This week’s going to be a totally different mindset for me because it’s gotten to the point now for me that I don’t care if I throw one interception because I know I can come back like I did in the other games. We’ll just make plays and go on.”

Seven interceptions in the first two games made Troth a little gun shy.

“I just went out there saying, ‘Oh my gosh, don’t throw an interception,’ ” Troth said of his mindset for the Tulane game. “That was in my head. I tried to get it out of my head and tried not to think about that but I mean all week it was, ‘We can’t turn the ball over, we can’t turn the ball over.’ I made some good throws but I didn’t make enough good throws for me to put my team in situations towards the end of the game to make first downs on third down.

“It’s got to improve because if you can’t convert on third down, you’re going to end up punting the ball and probably giving up the ball in good field position. My mindset — it was nothing like I was purposely throwing this side or this side, it was just mindset-wise I didn’t want to make a mistake.”

ECU needs to continue to avoid mistakes to contend at West Virginia, where the Pirates are winless in eight trips dating back to 1971. The stars seemed to be aligned against ECU on it last venture to Mountaineer Field, Nov. 18, 2000. It was the last home game for former West Virginia coach Don Nehlen, there was a 9-degree wind chill factor and, ultimately, WVU prevailed 42-24. Despite mistakes in that game that helped the Mountaineers to a 29-10 halftime lead, ECU pulled within 31-24 going into the fourth quarter.

Regardless of the outcome in Morgantown, the Pirates return home the following week to play Conference USA opponent Army, which is 0-3 going into its home game on Saturday against Southern Miss. A good crowd is expected on military appreciation day at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

The Pirates spent some time the week after the win over Tulane preparing for Army, which features an offense similar to ECU’s under former Pirates offensive coordinator Todd Berry. East Carolina coach Steve Logan has yet to see tape of this year’s Army team but has spoken with Berry.

“They are a lot like we are,” Logan said. “They’ve got some young people handling the ball and right now the problem for them has been turnovers, turnovers, turnovers.”

The Cadets have lost six fumbles and had three interceptions in three games while getting just two take-aways. That’s a minus-7 in turnover margin for the season, the same as ECU, which was actually minus-8 before Kelly Hardy’s interception in the Tulane game.

The Cadets were expected to start third string quarterback Matt Silva against the Golden Eagles. He’s a sophomore walk-on who will get tossed into the fray because of injuries.

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02/23/2007 12:59:36 AM

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