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Game 3: No. 14 ECU 28, Tulane 24


Game Slants
Sunday, September 14, 2008

By Denny O'Brien

Pinkney a Comeback Kid

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

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 to play.

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 position.’ ”

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 of experience.

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

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