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
“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
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)
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
“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
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
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,
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.