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View from the 'ville
Thursday, August 21, 2008

By Al Myatt

Role of No. 3 QB different this time

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Who knows who East Carolina's No. 3 quarterback is? That would be Taylor Mazzone, a junior transfer from Mississippi.

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 Blacksburg.

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 arrest.

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 carries.

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 possibility

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 44.15.

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 opposition.

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.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

08/21/2008 03:30:47 AM


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