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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, September 9, 2009

By Bethany Bradsher

Offense determined to deliver

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

It’s a theme that has nearly enveloped East Carolina's season opening victory over Appalachian State: The mysterious disappearing Pirate offense.

If the players in ECU’s air attack have anything to do with it, their portion of the offense will be unavoidable from this point on.

The offensive attack on Saturday for the first two quarters in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium was everything the Pirate architects wanted it to be. It was balanced and effective, with ECU amassing 108 passing yards and 159 rushing yards and building a 27-7 lead over the Mountaineers.

The problem? The Pirates only gained 23 more yards in the air and 30 more on the ground after halftime.

That vanishing act can be blamed on a stew of factors including ASU’s defensive adjustments, diminished energy from the Pirate players and building Mountaineer momentum that turned first-half explosion plays into second half non-plays.

“The things that we were doing in the first half that were gashing them for 15, 20, 35 yards were going for one or two yards in the second half,” said Pirate tight end Rob Kass. “It’s just a matter of focusing on the basics of it and not looking too far ahead. Offensively, we have to go back to the drawing board and just execute.”

Quarterback Patrick Pinkney and his offensive teammates have watched the game film, and they see the two sides of the offensive coin as well as anybody. But they are confident that the team has what it takes to make the first-half display the norm, especially with a powerful West Virginia defense just ahead.

“We just wanted to come out and hit ‘em in the mouth, and that’s what we did,” senior wide receiver Jamar Bryant said of the game’s early minutes. “The second half, I don’t know if we came out lackadaisical or what, but they just came out and played better than we did the second half.”

In dissecting the ASU win, the Pirate coaches brought the players back to their most recent loss — the frustrating 25-19 fall to Kentucky in the Liberty Bowl. The most striking similarity between the two contests was the depletion in offensive effectiveness in the second half; in the bowl game, that collapse cost ECU a victory.

The good news in the Appalachian game is that East Carolina did enough to prevail, but the team's upperclassmen will major in one theme this week: Playing hard from kickoff to clock tick-down.

“We left a lot of scoring drives on the field,” said senior Patrick Pinkney, who went 12-of-27 with two interceptions and one touchdown on the day. “In the second half, we lost our rhythm, and we lost on first downs, and that hurt us.

"We have to refocus, regroup and just know that things aren’t going to go our way all the time. We just have to keep believing and keep doing what we do best and that’s executing our offense.”

For Kass, who was making his first start at a new position, the transition from quarterback to tight end meant adjusting to the faster pace of the game from the line of scrimmage and joining fellow tight end Kevin Gidrey in a two tight-end set that sparked some of the Pirate’s early success in Saturday’s game.

Because of Gidrey’s and Kass’s size, that arrangement can be a tough one for opposing defenses who have to find an answer for both of them, Kass said.

“I feel like that’s a good set for us, but obviously it’s all up to Coach [Skip] Holtz and Coach [Todd] Fitch,” Kass said. ”As long as they call my number I’m going to go out there and do the best I possibly can.”

Junior receiver Dwayne Harris, who was the Pirates’ leading receiver against the Mountaineers with four catches for 37 yards, said that he and the other receivers have shaken off the negative aspects of the ASU game and will take only the lesson along to Morgantown this weekend.

“We feel good,” Harris said. “We just need to come out and play power football, like we did against App in the first half, and just not let up. We just need to go out there and execute the plays that the coaches call, and I think everyone will be all right.”

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09/09/2009 03:52 AM

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