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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Monday, September 30, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

League goal intact despite Morgantown mayhem


What the East Carolina football program and the Pirates fan base needs right now is a good case of selective amnesia.

Thereís not much point on dwelling on a 37-17 loss at West Virginia on Saturday other than to figure out just how the Mountaineers ran for a Big East Conference record 536 yards.

If somebody asks you at the water cooler today what happened to the Pirates over the weekend, a functional response would be, ďWas there a game? I thought we had an open date.Ē

Actually, here are just a few thoughts on a non-conference loss to a program that regularly lines up against league foes such as Miami, Virginia Tech and Syracuse. The Pirates resorted to some gimmickry against the Mountaineers, which was interesting but for the most part, unproductive.

ECU seems to feel that it canít beat some of the heavyweights on the schedule straight up. Youíll recall the failed onside kick at Syracuse last year and the successful Gamecock play to Damarcus Fox last year against Louisville.

The Cardinals, incidentally, took the edge off earlier losses to Kentucky and Colorado State by stunning Florida State 26-20 in overtime in a driving rain at Papa Johnís Stadium on ESPN on Thursday night. That was a great win for C-USA and non-Bowl Championship Series teams. The bad news is that it probably restored waning confidence for the Cards in themselves as they bid for a third straight league title.

While U of L was still basking in the glow, Halloween came early for ECU in the form of the trick or treating at WVU on Saturday.

The Pirates put Richard Alston at quarterback for several plays, including the start of the game, and moved Paul Troth to a receiver position. Putting Troth at receiver kept the Mountaineers from realizing something was up from a personnel on the field situation. A procedure penalty on ECUís first snap defused the surprise value of Alstonís position switch.

After ECU had seized the early momentum with an 80-yard fumble return for a score by Kelly Hardy, the Pirates tried an onside kick that gave the Mountaineers possession at their own 48. Avon Cobourne raced 52 yards for a score on the next play to start West Virginia on a roll.

The Pirates kept gambling, even springing a fake punt to Christshawn Gilliam that worked for a first down, but WVUís ground game ultimately proved too powerful.

ECUís own running game didnít answer the Mountaineersí stampede and eventually the Pirates didnít have time to get it done on the ground. They had to throw and got respectable numbers from Paul Troth ó 22 of 33 for 207 yards. Thatís the highest completion percentage yet for the sophomore quarterback in four starts, although it was coupled with his eighth and ninth interceptions of the season. To WVUís credit, their guys made very athletic plays on the pickoffs, one of which followed what appeared to be a volleyball set by Alston.

Kevin Miller did hit a field goal and was flawless on conversions but in general the positives were pretty scant. The Pirates came home much healthier than their last trip to Morgantown in 2000 ó and that was good.

It will be a physical week in practice, according to the coaches, and maybe thatís what the Pirates need. They were pretty much whipped in the trenches in Morgantown.

The referees appeared to have given WVU quarterback Rasheed Marshall a touchdown when his knee was down short of the goal line as he picked up a fumble and slid on his back into the end zone. The Mountaineers certainly didnít need any help from the guys in stripes on Saturday, but they got it on the score that resulted in a 20-7 deficit for the Pirates.

That pretty much wraps up my thoughts on the WVU game. Short, sweet and kind of bitter I guess. Other than that, ECU needs to remember that its preseason goal was a Conference USA championship and beating Army at home this Saturday will get the Pirates to 2-0 in the league. It will be military appreciation day. Thatís for the service personnel in the stands at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, not the Cadets players between the bushes at Bagwell Field.

On to the State Line Power Rankings, where the Wolfpack is 6-0 at the top and the Pirates have dropped anchor at the bottom for the time being.

  1. N.C. State ... Massachusetts is nicknamed the Minutemen and thatís about how long they lasted.
  2. Clemson ... The Tigers will catch Papa Bobbyís team coming off a stunning loss at Papa Johnís.
  3. South Carolina ... The Gamecocks beat Vanderbilt, about the only breather in the SEC.
  4. Wake Forest ... The Deacons couldnít get it done for 60 minutes after leading Virginia 34-17.
  5. Duke ... Two wins is two more than some expected from the Blue Devils, who sank Navy.
  6. North Carolina ... Two teams beat UNC on Saturday, Georgia Tech and the Heels themselves.
  7. East Carolina ... That was ECUís biggest margin of defeat since 41-7 at Southern Miss in 1998.

N.C. STATE (6-0, 1-0 ACC)

Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato wasnít happy after his teamís 56-24 win over UMass improved the Pack to 6-0. Maybe he doesnít want State to be overconfident with an open date before the meat of the ACC schedule. State starts league play at rival and nemesis North Carolina on Oct. 12. The Heels have been on the Pack like a hobo on a hamburger, winning eight of the last nine.

CLEMSON (3-1, 1-0 ACC)

The Tigers had an open date after beating Ball State before they play at Florida State on Thursday night. Clemson catches the Seminoles coming off the loss at Louisville in a season where coach Bobby Bowdenís program was supposed to return to its customary prominence after last yearís 8-4 mark. Clemson has some offensive weapons but hasnít beaten FSU since 1989.


Gamecocks quarterback Corey Jenkins accounted for 277 yards ó 97 rushing and 180 passing ó as the Gamecocks tuned up for Mississippi State at home this Saturday with a 20-14 win at Vanderbilt. Coach Lou Holtzís club catches the Bulldogs coming off of a 31-13 road loss at LSU.

WAKE FOREST (2-3, 0-2 ACC)

The Deacons were in position to get a rare win over Virginia with a 34-17 lead in Winston-Salem with five minutes left in the third quarter but Cavaliers quarterback Matt Schaub led a comeback that resulted in a 38-34 Wake loss going into a league game at Georgia Tech on Saturday. The Deacons rushed for 349 yards, the same total the Cavs passed for.

DUKE (2-3, 0-1 ACC)

How íbout those Blue Devils! Down 10-3 at Navy early in the second quarter Duke rolled up 40 points before the Middies scored again and that accounted for a 43-17 Blue Devils win. Alex Wade ran for 123 yards and Adam Smith completed 11 of 17 for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Duke hosts Virginia on Saturday.


A week off from a 52-21 loss to Texas didnít seem to benefit UNC, which fell victim to its own mistakes and Georgia Techís offensive depth. Tar Heels tight end Bobby Blizzard fumbled away an excellent scoring chance on a day when fans in Chapel Hill were left wondering what might have been in regard to that and other miscues. Still, the Jackets had a 24-12 lead in first downs, a 396-299 edge in total yardage and almost 15 minutes more in possession time. UNC will leave Thursday to play Saturday at Arizona State, which just whacked Stanford 65-24.

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02/23/2007 12:59:36 AM

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