INSIDE GAME DAY
East Carolina 24
Saturday, Nov. 6, 2004
|By Al Myatt
Sunday, Nov. 7, 2004
Tough breaks in Texas
HOUSTON — At least East Carolina wasn't loading up the bus at Houston's
Robertson Stadium after being blown out again on the road.
Rewind to routs at West Virginia, Louisville and Southern Miss and one could
develop an appreciation for the fact that the Pirates were competitive
before falling to the Cougars by a relatively scant 34-24 margin on
That. of course, barely moved the needle on the feel-good meter for the
"The bottom line was we didn't execute," said quarterback James Pinkney, who
was intercepted four times. "It's frustrating."
ECU had its chances, but instead of "What a win!" the postgame dissection
dealt with a number of outcome-swaying "What ifs?"
Notable among those were a Houston fumble the Pirates apparently recovered
at the Cougar 3-yard line early in the fourth quarter with ECU down, 28-17.
But the turnover was negated by a facemask penalty that gave the Cougars a
Instead of the Pirates being in prime position to trim the lead, Houston
drove for a score and a 34-17 lead.
A 78-yard scoring run by ECU freshman Chris Johnson in the second quarter
was nullified by a clipping call behind the runner.
There was also a mix-up when ECU had apparently forced the Cougars to try a
field goal at the Pirates 4-yard line with 4:20 left in the third quarter.
ECU was trying to protect a 17-14 lead at the time that was generated by
Cameron Broadwell's 45-yard field goal to close the first half.
The Pirates had to call time because they had the wrong personnel on the
field and Houston elected to go for a first down during the break. Anthony
Evans rushed for the first down and Cougars sophomore quarterback Kevin Kolb
ran a sneak for the Cougars' go-ahead score.
"We've got to get some breaks," said Pirates coach John Thompson. "Don't get
a hand on the facemask and don't block in the back behind the play. We
haven't been that kind of football team. We've been the least-penalized
football team in the league. That's something we will go back and work on."
ECU, which came in averaging just 34.4 yards in penalties per game drew
eight flags for 80 yards in walkoffs.
Defeat in City of Houston a first
The 2004 Pirates became the first ECU team to lose in Houston. The series
includes a remarkable 54-48 triple overtime win for ECU in 2002 in which the
Pirates rallied from a 34-17 fourth quarter deficit to overtake the Cougars.
The Pirates also had a 40-27 win over Texas Tech at the AstroDome in 2000 in
the galleryfurniture.com Bowl. ECU was 4-0 in Houston going into the
Cougars' 2004 Homecoming.
Offense takes injury hits
ECU allowed only one sack and produced 384 yards of total offense, which was
pretty impressive considering ECU's leading receiver, Bobby Good, went out
in the first quarter with what appeared to be a knee injury, and center
Charlie Dempsey was sidelined with a second quarter knee ailment.
Hunter Wood did not play center, apparently because of a shoulder injury
sustained in a
car accident on Wednesday. Reserve
offensive lineman Trey Magee, the driver in the one-car accident, was cited
because there was an
open container of alcohol in the
vehicle and drew a one game suspension from Thompson.
Dempsey moved from left guard to center to replace Wood. When Dempsey was
knocked out of action, Hagen Mason switched from right tackle to center.
"I came to ECU as a center," Mason said. "It's like riding a bike. You don't
forget how to do it."
Quarterback James Pinkney was ECU's top rusher with eight carries for a net
of 45 yards and said he felt no limiting effects from a leg injury in the
car accident, which had created doubt as to whether he would start.
"It just wasn't our week," Pinkney said of ECU's bad breaks and injuries.
The Pirates did get a break late in the game after Pinkney connected with
Will Bland for a touchdown covering 58 yards that drew ECU within 34-24 with
2:58 to go. ECU recovered the ensuing onside kick but came up short on
fourth-and-five at the Houston 38.
James Pinkney has thrown a TD pass in eight straight games, the longest span
for an ECU quarterback since David Garrard had a touchdown toss in eight
consecutive games during the 2001 season.
Pinkney's first interception, which came in the second quarter, ended his
streak of consecutive passes without a pick at 101.
New approach on the road
ECU didn't workout in Houston prior to the game, a departure from the
routine in previous road games this season.
"We worked out at home on Friday," Thompson said.
The Pirates had to stop in Kinston to refuel on the flight to Houston and
spent about two hours sitting on the ground because the truck had to go get
Still, ECU got off to a good start on Saturday. The Pirates scored first on
the road for the first time this season on a 15-yard pass from Pinkney to
Art Brown and held an opponent scoreless in the first quarter for the first
time all season.
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