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View from the 'ville
Thursday, October 11, 2007

By Al Myatt

Kass-Pinkney tag team tests foes

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

A two quarterback system has helped produce two straight wins for East Carolina but the approach is not unique. Many programs, including the Pirates in the past, have split playing time between two quarterbacks with varying degrees of success.

Steve Logan did it with David Garrard and Richard Alston. John Thompson used Desmond Robinson and Paul Troth in 2003.

Circumstances have led Holtz and staff to realize some advantages to having Rob Kass and Patrick Pinkney taking turns directing the offense this season.

The folks at Texas-El Paso have had to prepare for two vastly different styles of offense from ECU this week. Kass gives the Pirates a pocket passer capable of pinpointing the deep ball. When he tucks the ball and runs, Kass resembles a tight end.

The Miners must be wary of Pinkney's mobility and elements of misdirection when he's in the game. Although Pinkney lacks the effectiveness of a pocket passer that Kass possesses, he is capable of passing on the move.

Pinkney is one of those players who can improvise with equal or better success when a play breaks down. His 406 yards and three passing touchdowns were huge in the Pirates' 34-31 win over North Carolina earlier this season.

When Pinkney struggled two weeks ago at Houston, ECU brought Kass in with successful results. Kass started against Central Florida and with the defense helping ECU to a 5-0 lead in turnover margin, the Pirates were able to take advantage of his particular talents.

Kass regrouped at halftime after an ECU possession reached the UCF 2-yard line late in the first half but failed to produce a touchdown. Pirates coach Skip Holtz told Kass at halftime that he needed to be more effective if he wanted to continue playing.

"Coach Holtz is going to be hard on me, no matter what, because he wants me to be as perfect as possible," Kass said after the Pirates improved to 3-3 overall and 2-1 in Conference USA. "I expect that. I expect that out of myself. Coach Holtz is a great coach and Coach (Todd) Fitch (ECU offensive coordinator) is a great coach, too, on the offensive side of the ball.

"We really feel like if the receivers work hard enough to get open — which they do all of the time — that I should be able to put it there. There's five and six guys protecting in front of me as hard as they can. I should be able to do my part. In the second half, it worked out for us."

Kass finished 12 of 23 for 201 yards and three touchdowns.

The running threat provided by Chris Johnson forced the Knights to respect ECU's play action package.

Kass would have gone into the season as the starter had it not been for his DWI arrest before the season opener at Virginia Tech.

"It's been a road of ups and downs," Kass said. "You're gonna be hit with adversity any time in your life. It's not a matter of 'Are you down?' It's a matter of getting back up. Adversity can either split you apart or bring you closer together. I really think adversity brought us closer together as a team. We've fought through some tough times and we're going to continue to fight through.

"We're gonna continue to be prepared week in and week out to go 1-0."

Brett Clay was moved into the starting role in week one against the Hokies but was ineffective. Pinkney stepped up when he got a chance in Blacksburg.

Receiver Dwayne Harris has also taken snaps this season making ECU one of the few programs to have used four quarterbacks this season.

ECU's win over the Tar Heels and the competitive effort against Southern Miss with Kass on the sideline is a tribute to Holtz's emphasis on players rising to the occasion when their opportunity comes.

"Patrick is a great player," Kass said. "We all knew whether it was myself, Patrick or Brett out on the field that we had to get the job done. I don't want to put down (Patrick's) success because I'm extremely happy for him because this team is most important to me. I want Patrick to be successful just as I would want anybody else to be successful.

"He did a great job and he's going to continue to do a great job, week in and week out. If a defense has to prepare two or three hours extra per week for the dual threat, the two-headed monster — myself and Patrick — that will really help us in the long run."

Kass is fine with splitting time with Pinkney.

"If it continues to help us win, it's tops in my priority."

Holtz and staff went through most of preseason practice with the idea that they would be playing one quarterback, but circumstances have dictated another course.

Logan's two quarterback system was developed by design. The former Pirates coach, now offensive coordinator at unbeaten Boston College, had recruited Alston as a quarterback when some other prestigious programs projected him at other positions. Good to his word, Logan often played Alston a couple of series a game as a sub for Garrard.

As with ECU's current situation, defenses had to prepare for two quarterbacks. Logan also placed value on giving Garrard a break to see the opposing defense with a degree of detachment when Alston was in the game.

Troth started during 2002 but was relegated to a backup role when Thompson took over in 2003. When Robinson struggled, which was the norm, Thompson turned to Troth to see if he could provide a spark.

LSU has used two quarterbacks, Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux, to take pole position in the BCS race. ECU has its own "two-headed monster" as it looks to go 1-0 in El Paso.

UCF forced to go to the air

The most obvious key for East Carolina against Central Florida was keeping Kevin Smith from having a big game on the ground for the Knights.

That didn't happen early on as Smith, the Bowl Subdivision's leading rusher with 178.3 yards per game coming into Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, went over 100 yards on the Pirates early in the second half.

Smith finished slightly below his average with 156 yards rushing against the Pirates, but the course of the game dictated a change in the Knights' offensive approach after ECU took a 52-31 lead. UCF had to rely on its passing game and was forced to abandon its rushing attack which has so successfully featured Smith this season.

The Knights looked for Smith as a pass receiver out of the backfield but he didn't have a carry in the fourth quarter.

Carson falls on his sabre

The news of Bill Carson's resignation after four decades as ECU track coach was disappointing. Carson had a reputation for overachieving with limited resources but took responsibility for some secondary violations which ECU reported to the NCAA.

Ideally, he should have gone out with proper tribute for his years of service. Without an administrative assistant, the 70-year old acknowledged that some mistakes were made in the program. The NCAA tends to be more lenient in its sanctions when offending coaches lose their jobs.

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10/11/2007 04:42:00 AM


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