Who knows who East Carolina's No. 3
quarterback is? That would be Taylor Mazzone, a junior transfer from
Mazzone may be challenged for that
position by true freshman Josh Jordan, although the Pirate coaches will
be reluctant to burn a year of eligibility that would negate a redshirt
season for Jordan.
Mazzone has jersey No. 4, as does
defensive back Van Eskridge, although Eskridge's No. 4 will likely see
significantly more action.
Why does the identity of ECU's third
quarterback bear even the slightest consideration at this point of the
2008 preseason? It's because in the recent history of the Virginia
Tech-ECU series, the Pirates' third-string quarterback was suddenly
thrust into the forefront in last season's 17-7 Hokies win in
The fact that Mazzone will likely
maintain a high degree of anonymity as the two regional rivals set to
collide at Bank of America Stadium on Aug. 30 is simply testimony to how
different this year's matchup may be.
Certainly, Rob Kass' lapse in judgement
that cost him the starting quarterback job a week before the season
opener is 2007 is a lesson to be learned for every Pirate player about
complying with team regulations.
Patrick Pinkney was the No. 3
quarterback at this point last year but became No. 2 when Kass was
suspended by ECU coach Skip Holtz after Kass' driving while impaired
Brett Clay got a crash course during
game week but struggled to get it done in front of 66,233 in Blacksburg
and a national television audience. Clay has since hung up his cleats in
deference to continuing knee problems.
When Virginia Tech's Victor "Macho"
intercepted Clay on a questionable call deep in ECU territory and
returned it 17 yards late in the first half for a 10-0 Hokies lead,
opportunity knocked for Pinkney.
He finished with 14 completions in 25
attempts for 115 yards with no interceptions. A star was born. Pinkney
actually outrushed NFL first round draft choice to be, Chris Johnson.
Pinkney kept nine times for 48 yards while the speedy Johnson, the
Tennessee Titans' new $12 million man, managed just 29 yards on 10
Pinkney came up bigger than a super
Wal-Mart the following week.
Pinkney and Johnson hooked up for a
78-yard score in the first quarter of a 34-31 win over North Carolina in
Greenville. Pinkney went 31 for 41 for 406 yards and three touchdowns.
It was the second most productive passing effort by a Pirate, trailing
only the 414-yard total of current Jacksonville Jaguar quarterback David
Garrard against Memphis in 1998.
Pinkney showed a poise and focus that
the Pirate coaches had not seen in practice. Pinkney's consistency left
room for improvement and gave Kass a chance to step up at times in 2007.
As a result, ECU will go into its season opener against Virginia Tech
this season with two experienced quarterbacks.
That's two more than the Pirates had a
year ago. If Taylor Mazzone, remains No. 3, ECU will avoid a
potentially-disastrous situation that produced an unanticipated scenario
but a high degree of success during an 8-5 season in 2007.
(Purple and) Gold medal
Former East Carolina track star LaShawn
Merritt goes for the gold in Beijing today. It will be just past 9:20
p.m. in China tonight when Merritt races in the 400 meter final. His
main challenge is expected to come from the defending Olympic champion
in the event, Jeremy Wariner.
Race time will be 12 hours earlier
Thursday morning, Eastern Daylight Time. While a dozen time zones
separate Merritt from much of his ECU fan base, it's possible that mere
hundredths will separate Merritt and Wariner at the finish line.
Michael Johnson, who coaches and trains
Wariner, holds the world record in the event at 43.18 seconds. Merritt
qualified for the final in 44.12. Wariner, who lost the last two
head-to-head meetings with Merritt in the Olympic trials, qualified in
Either competitor might like to get a
helping of those Jamaican yams that Usain Bolt's father credits for his
son's incredible world record performances in the 100 and 200. Bolt
shattered Johnson's previous 200 record on Wednesday with a 19.30
clocking, shifting the Olympic spotlight off of USA swimmer Michael
Phelps for the moment.
Merritt and Wariner form one of the
most-relished rivalries in the Games and both men have been meticulous
in their preparation. If their rivalry succeeds in bringing out the best
in both runners, then another Johnson record appears susceptible.
Merritt succeeded in going out fast
enough to take a lead and hold on against the strong kick of Wariner
earlier this summer. Wariner has supposedly adjusted his approach to the
race to keep Merritt from getting too far ahead.
The track at the "Bird's Nest" has
proven to be as fast as billed and a race for the ages could be in
store. One of the challenges in Olympic competition is to deal with the
hype. Both Merritt and Wariner appear to have focused on their own
mindset, avoiding any comments that might serve as motivation for their
But it is a rivalry, right down to
their shoes. Wariner wears Adidas and Merritt represents Nike. Wariner
has promised to make something of a fashion statement with his footwear
in the final. But it's the neckwear, the gold medal, that they're after.
The Olympics come just once every four
years. The enormity of the moment can be an overwhelming factor. The
remainder of the world class field will be ready to take advantage if
either American is at anything less than his best.
Lifetime goals will be met or missed in
a matter of about 43 seconds.
To paraphrase legendary Georgia radio
voice, Larry Munson, ... run LaShawn ... run.