Game 3: No. 14 ECU 28, Tulane 24
Sunday, September 14, 2008
By Denny O'Brien
Pinkney a Comeback Kid
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NEW ORLEANS – It’s hard to believe that
Patrick Pinkney has spent most of his career at the bottom of the East
Carolina depth chart.
Judging solely by the way he engineered the
No. 14 Pirates’ 28-24 comeback over upstart Tulane, you would think he
entered the day as a four-year starter, not a senior with only seven starts
to his name.
And for half of ECU’s Superdome scare,
Pinkney did resemble a gun-shy quarterback with limited experience. That was
until the Pirates were down to their final bullet, one that Coach Skip Holtz
handed confidently to Pinkney with a three-point deficit and only 5:46 left
The potential for a losing game-ending
scenario seemed real when you consider the script the ECU offense followed
for much of the game. The Green Wave defense had for the most part capsized
the Pirates with an impressive blend of power, speed, and scheme.
But the next four minutes and 80 yards was
Pinkney at his best. It typically is. This time he carried the Pirates with
his nimble feet and hurled them to victory with an accurate right arm.
It was, perhaps, a season-saving rally led
by Captain Comeback, whose own second half recovery keeps the Pirates firmly
on the national radar.
“It was very untypical of Patrick,” Holtz
said of Pinkney’s first half performance. “What he did was he rallied at
halftime. He kind of got himself together. He didn’t stay rattled.
“He came out in the second half and just
started seeing the field much better, started making much better decisions
and really just calmed down. Coach Fitch did a good job with him at halftime
of just trying to get him to calm down. I told him, ‘You’ve just got to play
within the system. We don’t need the super play at the quarterback
Actually, they did. And on that final drive
Pinkney delivered five of them. He sandwiched a 27-yard strike to freshman
Darryl Freeney between 10-yard and 14-yard runs.
He followed that with a 13-yard slant to
playmaker Dwayne Harris before firing a 24-yard touchdown to Jamar Bryant on
a double move.
“It shows you that there is a great
competitive nature and a great fire,” ECU co-offensive coordinator Todd
Fitch said. “He’s a senior and he feels a strong obligation to this team to
scratch and fight and claw to find a way to win.
“What I thought he did a great job of other
than competing was letting the game come back to him in the second half. He
did a nice job of kind of relaxing and seeing things better.”
Tulane spent the first half thoroughly
confusing Pinkney, blitzing and scheming him into a frustrating trance. At
times it appeared as if Green Wave Coach Bob Toledo had mastered the Voodoo
for which the Crescent City is famous.
Pinkney overthrew and underthrew receivers,
missing on four of his first five attempts. It was the type of start that
hardly ever ends with a 260-yard performance and victory cigar.
“You’re going to have your ups and downs,”
Pinkney said. “But that’s when you have to come together as a football team.
You have to keep believing.
“Coach Holtz always teaches us that
everything will go our way if we stick together and keep believing. If we
expect to win, then we’ll be fine.”
You get the feeling that ECU expected to
win Saturday, even at a moment when most of the 27,189 in attendance thought
they wouldn’t. Maybe that’s because the fans pulling for the home team
didn’t see Pinkney direct the game-winning drive against North Carolina last
season – or the late score against Virginia Tech that set the stage for a
program-defining victory two weeks ago.
Anyone who has monitored Pinkney’s brief
career to date knows not to bet against him. He has overcome his short
stature, two shoulder surgeries, and relative obscurity to become one of the
most visible figures in college football this season.
On Saturday he overcame a poor first half
and a pair of turnovers to usher his team to a gutsy victory. He did it with
the poise and maturity that shouldn’t be attached to a player with his lack
But it’s growing more clear that Pinkney
has something special bottled deep inside him that has helped him scale a
mountain of odds. He opened it Saturday when his team needed it most.
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09/14/2008 02:13:14 AM