INSIDE GAME DAY
56, East Carolina 23
Saturday, Sept. 4, 2004
|By Al Myatt
Sunday, Sept. 5, 2004
One step forward, one step
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PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact
INSIDE PIRATE FOOTBALL
Tracking the Classes
NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again
HIGH HOPES FOR HOOPS
New Leader Takes Charge
SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door
KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams
BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate
MORGANTOWN If there was one number that showed where East Carolina's
defensive focus should be after its season-opening football loss at West
Virginia on Saturday night, it was the one put up by Kay-Jay Harris.
The bruising senior running back rocked and rambled for a school and Big
East Conference record 337 rushing yards in the Mountaineers' dominating
56-23 win over the Pirates.
ECU recruited, moved personnel and head coach John Thompson even placed more
emphasis on spending time with the defense in an effort to boost the
performance of a unit that allowed 35.7 points per game in 2003.
Little of that appeared to matter against a team intent on atoning for a
lopsided Gator Bowl loss to Maryland last season and one that has been
picked as a national title contender based on a Big East schedule that no
longer includes Miami or Virginia Tech.
Harris himself has been questioned about whether he has the durability to
man the workhorse backfield position that has produced eight straight
1,000-yard rushers for the Mountaineers. WVU senior quarterback Rasheed
Marshall roomed with Harris in preseason camp and said Harris' mindset has
about stepping up now that it was his turn in the succession of the
He certainly stepped up against the Pirates and immediately passed the
credit along to his blockers.
"Our offensive line did a helluva job, I mean a helluva job," said the
6-foot-2 Harris, who trimmed down from 247 pounds to 228 in fall camp. "The
one thing we are taught in practice is to handle safetys and I did that all
"The credit goes to the offensive line, the tight ends and the wide
receivers blocking downfield. I just did what I was supposed to do and ran
to daylight. ... I saw the goalposts every time I touched the ball. When I
see the goal posts my eyes get big and I just run for it."
Harris ran for four touchdowns.
"My offensive line had a lot of movement," Harris continued. "I saw the
backs of their numbers all night long. ... When I came through the hole the
only person I saw was about 5-8 or 5-9 and about a hundred-and-some pounds
and that was the safety."
ECU coach John Thompson didn't see the same degree of dominance by the No.
10 Mountaineers up front. Poor tackling was the factor cited by the
second-year Pirates coach.
"I'm shocked that the numbers were like they were tonight but we didn't
tackle and they broke tackles," Thompson said. "We were in position to make
a lot of plays but give them credit they ran hard and they blocked us.
There were times it was like the paper said this morning that they ran over,
around and through us."
Success on the ground against ECU has become a habit for the Mountaineers.
They piled up a Big East record 536 rushing yards on the ground in a 37-17
home victory in 2002. WVU had 361 yards rushing in last year's 48-7 win in
ECU's new offense under the direction of first-year coordinator Noah
Brindise stepped up to a degree and showed a much-needed vertical passing
dimension. But the defense took a step backward.
The Mountaineers put up 56 points and did so without the help of numerous
turnovers as was the case in Greenville last season when five Pirate
turnovers were converted into five WVU touchdowns.
"They busted a lot of big plays," said Pirate defensive end Lorenza Pickett
of WVU's 56-point effort before a sellout crowd at Mountaineer Field at
Milan Puskar Stadium. "They're a big unit type of team. They were all
working together and they were working well together. They've got a good
sideways running scheme. There's stuff we could do about it but it didn't go
our way tonight."
Pirate sophomore corner Erode Jean said WVU's point total would have been
even bigger if ECU hadn't battled for 60 minutes on a warm night in
"Their package was a big challenge but we really just shot ourselves in the
foot by missed tackling," Jean said. "I give it to West Virginia. They're a
pretty good team but all those yards rushing? No team's that good. I'm
going to take my hat off to them boys. They executed their plays. We've got
to get better and come back next week and play a better game.
"If we had put our head down, they probably would have scored 70. We stayed
together for the most part and we're a way better team than last year."
Thompson, too, insists the team is better than last season and will continue
"For us to get respect and for us to get this program back to where it's
going to be, we've got to tackle," said the ECU coach.
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