Just over a month ago in the early morning
hours of the last Saturday before East Carolina's 2007 football opener
at Virginia Tech, Rob Kass' future took a detour.
The Pirate program had invested countless
snaps in spring and preseason practices grooming the redshirt sophomore
for the starting role at quarterback.
Then Kass encountered a DWI checkpoint
and Greenville police reportedly measured his blood-alcohol content at
0.19, significantly above the legal limit of 0.08.
There is an expectation of conduct
associated with being a member of this football program, said ECU coach
Skip Holtz in announcing that Kass was suspended for the Hokies game. I
regret anytime we are put in a position to take disciplinary action, but
we take the responsibility of representing East Carolina University
The Pirates quickly went into an
adjustment mode, bumping Brett Clay up on the depth chart into a
starting role. Patrick Pinkney went from third team to back-up and ECU
shifted freshman Dwayne Harris from receiver to quarterback. Clay was
ineffectual in Blacksburg in the dropback passing scheme that ECU had
developed with Kass in mind.
Pinkney stepped up and had some
productive efforts in an adapted offense that allowed him to take
advantage of his running ability. A junior from Fayetteville Pine Forest
High, Pinkney made the most of the playing opportunity he had been
waiting for so patiently against North Carolina as he completed 31 of 41
passes for 406 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
But Pinkney and the Pirates struggled
mightily last week at No. 5 West Virginia and Kass saw his first action
of the season in a mop-up role. He came in and threw three passes,
completing two for 11 yards.
Holtz said in his press conference
Monday that the Pirates might use multiple quarterbacks, with the
contrasting styles of Kass and Pinkney likely to present preparation
problems for opposing defenses.
"Patrick has had success getting on the
perimeter and West Virginia did a good job of containing him," Holtz
said. "In [West Virginia's] three-down line set, they did a good job of
getting pressure on the edges to make Patrick throw out of a well and
that is not his strength.
"We need to be able to play two
quarterbacks, but Patrick has never needed confidence. I have never had
to pump him up or get him to believe in himself. For example, after the
North Carolina game, someone said that it had to give Patrick a lot of
confidence but I believe that it gave everyone else a lot of confidence
in him. We really rallied around him."
Holtz apparently is ready to let Kass,
the projected successor to James Pinkney, take a shot at keeping the
Pirates in contention in the Conference USA race this week at Houston.
After a 28-21 loss to Southern Miss in week three, ECU can't afford to
fall to 0-2 in the league and realistically expect to contend for the
"We can't ask Patrick to do everything
right now," Holtz said. "We have to formulate different packages so that
Patrick and Rob can be successful. It will be much harder for a defense
having to prepare for multiple packages. The blocking schemes for the
offensive line won't change much but we will use our personnel where
they best fit."
Kass relished the chance to play again
against West Virginia although the lopsided circumstances of his
appearance were far from ideal.
"It wasn't the greatest situation
because we were down by so many points, but it felt great," Kass said.
"I thank Coach Holtz and Coach (Todd) Fitch (offensive coordinator) for
sticking by me and supporting me and giving me that opportunity."
Holtz did what he had to do in terms of
maintaining discipline in the program when he suspended Kass, but he
also has made sure that Kass understood the lesson that was to be
"It's been a growing experience, a life
learning experience," Kass said of his banishment to the sideline. "I've
gotten great support at home from my family, from the coaches and from
my teammates. I'm really looking forward to the future."
Kass said he was ready if called in the
North Carolina and Southern Miss games.
"I was always mentally tied into the
game," Kass said. "I was physically and mentally prepared to play."
Holtz apparently hasn't scripted the
playing time for his quarterbacks for the matchup with the Cougars.
"He's just told all of us to be
prepared as if we were going to play the entire game," Kass said. "We'll
all be prepared to play."
Kass has been putting in his time
watching tape of Houston, which is 2-1 overall and 1-0 in C-USA with a
34-10 win over Tulane. The Cougars have eight starters back on defense
from the team that won the league title in 2006. The biggest loss was
quarterback Kevin Kolb, who passed for 3,809 yards and 30 touchdowns
last season. Freshman quarterbacks Case Keenum and sophomore Blake
Joseph have both made starts for coach Art Briles' program.
"They're extremely well-coached and
disciplined defensively," Kass said of the Cougars. "They have very few
missed assignments. We have to be very consistent against them. We can
use the run to open up the passing game and vice-versa use the passing
game to open up the run."
The Cougars are averaging about 483
yards of offense per game while yielding 376.
The Pirates dealt with one offensive
juggernaut last week in that 48-7 loss at West Virginia. Kass drove the
Pirates for a touchdown against the Mountaineers reserves with 59
seconds left to avoid a shutout.
"The atmosphere up there was pretty
intense 65,000 screaming fans," Kass said.
WVU had extra time to rest and focus on
ECU, having last played against Maryland nine days earlier. The
Mountaineers used the appearance on national television to state their
case for national title consideration and to promote the Heisman Trophy
candidacies of quarterback Pat White and running back Steve Slaton.
The Pirates probably weren't as good as
a 20-15 loss in Morgantown in Holtz's first season in 2005 might
indicate. Conversely, ECU isn't as bad as the blowout proportions last
Saturday might lead one to believe.
"I thought (West Virginia) played an
excellent game and I thought we played our worst game of the year,"
Kass has a court appearance scheduled
later this season as a result of his DWI arrest. His lawyers and coaches
have advised him not to talk about the specifics of the case. Kass has
resolved to overcome the adversity that his bad judgment generated.
"It doesn't matter how you got knocked
down," Kass said. "What matters is how you get back up."
That applies to the projected 2007
starter at quarterback and to the Pirates in general after the debacle
The ECU program has refocused on the
task at hand. Practices have been longer this week.
"We're really trying to concentrate on
coming back from Houston with a win," Kass said. "We're thinking about
going 1-0 this week and that's all that matters."