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Game 7: East Carolina 30, Memphis 10

 

Inside Game Day
Sunday, October 19, 2008

By Al Myatt

Good things come to Kass, Pirates

By Al Myatt
©2008 Bonesville.net
All rights reserved.

GREENVILLE — East Carolina was at a crossroads on Saturday afternoon at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The Pirates needed a win to stay above .500 overall and remain in contention for the Conference USA East Division championship.

The Pirates were able to move forward with a 30-10 win over Memphis by taking a step back to the two-quarterback system that proved effective in 2007.

After jumping out to a 3-0 start in 2008 and a No. 14 national ranking, the Pirates had lost three straight. A turnaround was badly needed. There was significantly more concrete exposed in the stands as wet weather and ECU's demise in recent weeks took its toll on the attendance, which was announced at 41,216.

About the only thing on target in the early going was the Army parachute team that landed on the playing surface before kickoff. Pirate quarterbacks Patrick Pinkney and Rob Kass combined to go just 5 for 12 passing for a scant 42 yards in the first 30 minutes.

That didn't compare favorably to a 7 for 9 effort for 63 yards by third-string Memphis quarterback Brett Toney, who was pressed into action due to injuries and whose previous experience on offense consisted primarily of holding on placekicks.

The only thing offensively for the Pirates that brought the subdued gathering to life in the first half was a 68-yard scoring run by Jonathan Williams that tied the score at 7 with 6:20 left in the first half. Memphis' first score had come as the result of a muffed punt return by ECU's J.J. Milbrook that led to a 7-yard scoring possession by the Tigers.

The Tigers drove 58 yards late in the first half to take a 10-7 lead on a 20-yard field goal by Vinny Zaccario, who had missed badly earlier from 40 yards.

But with ECU badly in need of direction, Kass stepped up to show the way in the second half.

"The guys said at halftime, 'We're in this game and we're going to come back and win,' " said Kass, who was 7 for 12 for 159 yards with two touchdowns in the second half.

His 42-yard pass to Brandon Simmons, who came open out of the backfield on a wheel route, put the Pirates ahead to stay at 13-10 with 8:57 left in the third quarter.

The scoreboard at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium wasn't working and the referee occasionally announced how much time was remaining. Maybe that was appropriate since the Pirates played like they were in a time warp, taking a year off the calendar when Pinkney and/or Kass played depending on which had the hot hand.

ECU coach Skip Holtz indicated that may be the case going forward. The Pirate coaches will evaluate the Memphis game tape and the two quarterbacks likely will split reps in practice prior to a Sunday, Nov. 2 date at Central Florida on ESPN.

Holtz said the Pirates could smile again, something they hadn't been able to do since a 28-24 win at Tulane over a month ago.

"We needed this one," said the ECU coach. "It was important for our morale because we had a tough nonconference schedule that beat us up a little bit. It was good to have the opportunity to come home and continue league play and now sit 2-1 in C-USA.

"The guys came to practice this week and worked hard, knowing that there was a lot left to play for."

Kass completed 9 of 17 passes for 167 yards with his two touchdowns. All but eight of his passing yards coming after halftime. It was heartwarming to see a guy who had patiently waited his turn step up when he got his most significant playing time this season.

Other heroes may have been obscured as the spotlight shone brightly on Kass. Williams finished with 108 yards rushing, and Norman Whitley showed a nose for the end zone when his 12-yard run with 4:59 remaining completed the scoring.

There also may have been a tendency to overlook the ECU defense, which allowed just one touchdown – that coming after the Pirates muffed a punt and presented the Tigers with choice field position at the ECU 7.

Memphis got no points on a subsequent possession after being presented the ball at the ECU 18 on a second quarter turnover.

"Our defense played very well," Holtz said. "I hate that Memphis lost two of their quarterbacks and I feel bad for Tommy (West, Memphis coach) over there. We didn't let Memphis drive the ball and that was a key part of their game."

The Tigers had to trim their playbook with inexperienced quarterbacks but the situation required adjustments by the Pirates as well.

"We watched them all week on the starting quarterback (Arkelon Hall)," said defensive lineman C.J. Wilson, who had a sack, two tackles for loss and five tackles in all. "He ran a lot more than the second-team or third-team quarterbacks.

"We didn't let that make us lose our focus. We just kept playing hard."

It had been a long time between drinks from the victory cup for the Pirates.

"It feels great to get back on the winning track," Wilson said. "That's what football and sports is all about. It's all about winning, so we're happy we got that win today."

Kass was very gracious in his postgame remarks but it was clear that he was thrilled to be able to contribute significantly to a much-needed win.

"Good things come to those who wait," Kass said.

The Pirate Nation would agree as the purple-clad masses also have waited for the Pirates to get going again.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

10/19/2008 03:18:03 AM
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