flashed a smile at
practice this week.
As many players as East Carolina has
lost this season, it would seem to be poetic justice that the Pirates
would get a star back.
One of the more intriguing aspects of
the Liberty Bowl is that it may not be the last game for East Carolina
senior quarterback Patrick Pinkney. ECU has made a formal appeal to
Conference USA to grant Pinkney another year of eligibility based on
As a freshman in 2004, Pinkney played
in a junior varsity football game against Hargrave Military Academy. The
former Fayetteville Pine Forest star completed 10 of 22 passes for 127
yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 19-7 ECU win at Dowdy-Ficklen
Former Pirates coach John Thompson
assured everyone at the time that playing in that game would not cost
Pinkney anything in terms of eligibility. Pinkney had surgery on the
shoulder already scheduled in the days following that game when he
played against Hargrave.
Pinkney sat out the 2005 season when he
was again beset by shoulder problems. An ECU official has stated that
Pinkney's competitive clock began running when he played in the junior
varsity tilt in 2004.
“To get your fifth-year waiver, you
have to have two years of non-competition,” ECU athletic compliance
director Tim Metcalf told the Greenville (NC) Daily Reflector. “That one
jayvee game is what's messing up the two years of non-competition. If he
hadn't played in that one game, if he was too hurt and we had medical
documentation, that's one year. Then he gets hurt the second year and we
have the medical documentation for that, and that's the second year.”
Metcalf said he will petition the NCAA
on Pinkney's behalf, regardless of the C-USA ruling.
"We don't know yet," Pinkney said after
practice on Wednesday. "Right now I'm not really focused on that."
Understandably, Pinkey is gearing in
more immediate terms — Friday's bowl game with Kentucky.
Pinkney started every game this season
except Central Florida, stepping aside for Rob Kass on Nov. 2 in
Orlando, but he still played a significant role in
a 13-10 overtime win over the
Pinkney has completed 205 of 327 passes
this season (62.7 percent) for 2,379 yards and 11 touchdowns with seven
interceptions. He essentially split time with Kass in 2007 but earned
the starting position for the 2008 season during spring practice.
Musical chairs with personnel
One of the remarkable things about East
Carolina's 9-4 season and
run to the Conference USA championship
is that it has been accomplished despite injuries and suspensions to
players across the depth chart.
Only five players have started every
game for ECU out of 22 positions on offense and defense. The group that
has started every game includes left guard Cory Dowless and tight end
Davon Drew on offense. On defense, the 13-game starters are tackle Jay
Ross, end C.J. Wilson and strong safety Van Eskridge.
Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch of the
Pirates said continuing adjustments in personnel affected ECU's
consistency. After starting 3-0 and rising in the national rankings, the
Pirates experienced a three-game losing streak before regrouping for the
run to the C-USA title.
"We probably lost our top five skill
guys on offense for the second half of the season," Fitch said. "I give
a lot of credit to our players because they've adapted well."
The skill group that is missing in
action includes receiver/returner Dwayne Harris, receiver T.J. Lee,
receiver Jamar Bryant, running back Jonathan Williams and receiver T.J.
One bit of good news for the offense is
that tackle Stanley Bryant may be sufficiently recovered from a knee
injury to play against the Wildcats.
Hoops challenge ahead
East Carolina jumped out to an 8-1
start in basketball but
a 63-55 loss at Coastal Carolina
on Sunday extended a losing streak to three games as the Pirates (8-4)
prepare for a 4 p.m. game at Clemson on Saturday.
"Consistency is what we've had to focus
on from the very beginning," said Pirates coach Mack McCarthy. "Against
some competition early in the year, it didn't rear its ugly head as much
because we were more talented than some of the teams we played.
"As the competition picked up, our
weaknesses were exposed — execution on offense, stopping penetration,
defensive rebounding. Those are things that we mentioned all along were
problems but some nights we were able to overcome them because we shot
the ball well or we were fairly efficient on the offensive end or we got
big stops at certain times.
"Those are things that we knew would be
problems as teams got better and, of course, as you go forward into the
season you also run into more prepared teams because they have more
information about you. Everybody knows everybody's strengths and
Like ECU in football, the hardwood
Pirates have dealt with some personnel issues. McCarthy said the inside
game has been more productive than last season despite the transfers of
Gabe Blair to Wichita State and John Fields to UNC-Wilmington.
The problem in the frontcourt has been
depth. An injury to 6-foot-7 DaQuan Joyner has compounded difficulties.
McCarthy said Joyner is projected to return by the Texas-El Paso game at
home on Jan. 17.
McCarthy said the Pirates would face
much of the Clemson personnel that provided
an 82-67 win over ECU in
Greenville last season.
The atmosphere at Clemson's Littlejohn
Coliseum may not be as raucous as usual with students on break and some
fans displaced by the Tigers' Gator Bowl game today with Nebraska in
"They'll still have a good crowd,"
McCarthy said. "You play an ACC team on the road and you know they're
The Tigers, ranked No. 20 nationally,
improved to 13-0 with a 98-87 win at South Carolina on Tuesday night.