East Carolina @ West Virginia
Pirates will meet motivated Mountaineers in first road test
Date: Saturday, September 12, 2009
Location: Mountaineer Field at Milan-Puskar Stadium (60,000); Morgantown, WV
Time: 3:30 p.m. (EST)
Records: East Carolina (1-0) ; West Virginia (1-0)
Rankings: East Carolina: AP- RV (36 th), Coaches- RV (52 nd)
West Virginia: AP- RV (32 nd), Coaches- RV (31 st)
All-Time Series Record: West Virginia leads 17-3
Last Meeting: Saturday, September 6, 2008— East Carolina 24 WVU 3
East Carolina is traveling to Morgantown this weekend to take on West Virginia at Mountaineer Field, Milan-Puskar Stadium.
Advantage: West Virginia
This match-up should be pretty even, but give the Mountaineers’ “D” a slight edge here due to the inconsistency of the East Carolina offense versus Appalachian State.
Last season, the Pirates used a power running game and a 22-of-28, 236-yard effort by Patrick Pinkney to produce nearly 400 yards of offense against West Virginia.
ECU, which has better personnel at its disposal than a season ago, has the ability to generate a similar performance this year. However, it must show marked improvement through the air in order to do so.
Sixth-year senior quarterback Patrick Pinkney struggled in the season opener, but particularly in the second half. Pinkney completed just 12-of-27 attempts for 131 yards and threw two interceptions versus Appalachian.
The Pirates’ veteran offensive line—with the exception of new starting left tackle Willie Smith—had their way with the smaller Mountaineers in the first half and rushed for nearly 160 yards. East Carolina scored on four of its first five possessions and five of seven in the opening half.
However, ECU didn’t adjust well when ASU loaded the box in the second half. It took a couple of deep shots, but didn’t take what was there at times when the Mountaineers were giving up the short passing game in what was an admittedly overly conservative approach. The Pirates managed just 53 yards of offense and four first downs.
Senior Dominique Lindsay began his final season with a bang, as he posted his first-ever 100-yard rushing effort and spearheaded the team’s 189-yard effort on the ground. Lindsay finished with 105 yards on just 15 carries.
Brandon Jackson, Giavanni Ruffin, and Jonathan Williams also received carries. Jackson had five attempts for 46 yards—including a 39-yard score on his first-ever collegiate carry on the game’s opening drive.
Playmaker Dwayne Harris caught a team-high four balls for 37 yards, but the highlight of the passing attack was Pinkney hooking up with former walk-on Reyn Willis on a corner route that went for a 27-yard score in the first quarter.
Jamar Bryant had two catches for 29 yards in his first game back after missing much of last year due to a suspension.
The Pirates will look to put forth a much more formidable passing game against West Virginia—one that rivals their ’08 effort versus the Mountaineers.
West Virginia showed some susceptibility to the pass in its opener against the Liberty Flames. Former South Carolina quarterback Tommy Beecher went 22-of-33 for 210 yards and LU wideout Mike Brown caught 11 balls for 157 yards.
Defensively, the Mountaineers will present the Pirates with the same 3-3-5 scheme they have faced in recent seasons. It yielded 299 yards of offense to Liberty and produced eight tackles for losses and a pair of sacks.
The line is solid and is highlighted by athletic pass rushing defensive end Julian Miller. Miller. Miller totaled seven tackles—including 1.5 sacks and three for losses against Liberty.
Senior Reed Williams, who missed last year’s game, and J.T. Thomas provide the unit with excellent linebackers. Thomas tied Miller with a team-high seven tackles—2.5 of which came behind the line.
The corners, Brandon Hogan and Keith Tandy, are relatively young.
Sophomore Robert Sands, a 6-5, 220-pound free safety, started behind Eain Smith; however, he produced the game’s only turnover with his first career INT.
Strong safety Sidney Glover, who started ten games in ’08, is expected to be back after missing the Liberty game.
Advantage: East Carolina
The post-Pat White era began with mixed results, but more good than bad against FCS foe Liberty.
The Mountaineers showed the desire to throw the ball more last season under new offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen. That trend carried over to this season’s first game and WVU has the ability to throw it with fifth-year senior quarterback Jarrett Brown behind center.
Brown, who has started three games in his Mountaineer career, was a solid 19-of-26 for 243 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown, but he also didn’t throw any interceptions. While he’s certainly not the run threat White was, he showed he is more than capable of hurting opponents with his legs. He ran for 69 yards on only nine carries and dashed for a 22-yard touchdown against the Flames.
The receiving corps, which is very large and athletic as a whole, was led by its smallest option in week one. Jock Sanders, who stands but 5-8, 178, had eight catches for 95 yards. Otherwise, the Mountaineers will remind the Pirates of Memphis with the height they bring to the table. The tallest is 6-8 Wes Lyons. Lyons had two receptions for 31 yards, but was then held out to help his nagging hamstring heal. Bradley Starks and Alric Arnett are other top options.
WVU is utilizing a tight end more this season and 6-5, 244-pound Tyler Urban provides them with a strong receiving option as well. Urban hauled in two receptions for 49 yards against Liberty.
Junior speedster Noel Devine ran for 112 yards on just 17 carries to lead a running attack that accumulated 195 yards on 34 attempts. The Pirates did a commendable job of not allowing Devine to make the big play last season and must do so again.
The Mountaineers are well aware of the talented East Carolina defense. The unit limited ASU to 246 yards, but struggled to adjust to Appalachian’s scheme in the second half when they were on the field for 21 minutes.
The Pirates boast an experienced front seven that includes six seniors.
It is led by Conference USA’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year C.J. Wilson. Wilson tallied eight tackles—including one for a loss—against ASU despite missing much of the second half with cramping issues. Fellow defensive end Scotty Robinson and tackles Jay Ross and Linval Joseph also played very well in the opener. Joseph had seven stops—2.5 of which came behind the line. Josh Smith and true freshman Michael Brooks played well when Wilson and Joseph were sidelined in the second half.
The veteran linebacking corps of Nick Johnson, Chris Mattocks and Jeremy Chambliss played well. Johnson had an interception and five stops. Meanwhile, Mattocks and Chambliss recorded eight and ten stops, respectively. Steve Spence and true freshman Marke (pronounced Mar-key) Powell were among the others that saw action.
Strong Safety Levin Neal and corner Emmanuel Davis suffered injuries against Appalachian and are doubtful for WVU, but the Pirates have enough depth in the secondary that they should be able to minimize the effect of the losses.
Derek Blacknall, who challenged Neal for the starting spot in the preseason, played approximately 60 snaps against ASU. Jack Schultz also saw time at the position as a back-up to Blacknall.
Corner Dekota Marshall can rotate in at safety if necessary.
Senior free safety Van Eskridge was his usual steady self against ASU. He had nine stops and delivered a key hit on Appalachian’s Coco Hillary on the Mountaineers’ fourth down attempt with only seconds remaining.
Advantage: East Carolina
The kicking game could play a huge role if this turns into the competitive contest most people expect.
Both teams possess talented kickers and punters.
East Carolina’s Matt Dodge averaged 44-plus on five attempts against ASU. He did a terrific job of pinning the Mountaineers deep and delivered a key 43-yard effort with the game on the line. Dodge also handles the kickoff duties. He averaged 67 yards and had one touchback on six kickoffs last week.
Scott Kozlowski averaged 47.5 on his two attempts versus Liberty.
With Pat McAfee graduating, WVU had a huge void to fill. However, Stewart had to be smiling after Tyler Betancurt’s 4-of-4 effort in the opener when he hit from 38, 35, 45 and 36.
East Carolina was unsure if it would use Ben Hartman or Ben Ryan to handle PAT’s and field goals versus Appalachian. As it turned out, the Pirates used each. Hartman hit a PAT and two field goals (26 and 25) while Ryan booted two PAT attempts.
Travis Simmons returns punts for ECU while Brandon Hogan handles those duties for WVU. Simmons had a 30-yard effort last week. Hogan’s lone chance went for ten yards.
Dwayne Harris, Jonathan Williams or Dominique Lindsay all returned kickoffs against ASU and will look to exploit a WVU kickoff team that struggled against Liberty.
Josh Lider handles the kickoffs for the Mountaineers. He averaged just 55 yards per attempt last week and lost one out of bounds, as he attempted to “sky” it to help the struggling coverage team.
Tavon Austin and Mark Rodgers return the kicks for the Mountaineers.
Advantage: West Virginia
Give WVU a slight edge here due to the fact they’ll be motivated to avenge last year’s blowout loss and will be playing in front of what will surely be a raucous crowd at Mountaineer Field.
Last year’s 24-3 loss in Greenville was a turning point for the ’08 team and the ’09 edition of the Mountaineers—which features many returners—certainly hasn’t forgotten that dark day either. That result has led to headlines such as “No words needed”, “Toughness to be tested vs. Pirates”, “ West Virginia motivated for rematch” and “Loss to Pirates in ’08 still stings for several Mountaineers”.
As Mountaineer linebacker J.T. Thomas stated, his team was “tested” and “punched in the mouth”, but “didn’t punch back”.
Consequently, East Carolina can expect the Mountaineers’ best effort.
The Pirates also have plenty of returning players that experienced last season’s success, as well as the 48-7 drubbing by WVU in the ’07 visit to Milan-Puskar Stadium.
Those experiences will aid ECU as it attempts to earn it’s first-ever win in Morgantown.
Both teams will look to eliminate the mental mistakes after too close for comfort games with FCS foes in their openers.
The Pirates must also address their hydration issues that resulted in cramping in the poor second half against Appalachian State.
East Carolina and West Virginia appear to be two pretty evenly matched clubs. It will be surprising if this one doesn’t come down to the fourth quarter.
If the Pirates are going to capture their first-ever victory at West Virginia, they will have to play for 60 minutes while utilizing a much-improved passing effort. If they can do that, this veteran club has what it takes to make history.
In what should be a competitive contest, the Mountaineers must finish drives better than they did a week ago when they had to settle for four field goals. The inexperienced offensive line must continue to improve and protect Jarrett Brown well again so WVU isn’t one-dimensional against a stout Pirate defense. Defensively, the Old Gold and Blue must slow down the run and force Patrick Pinkney to produce a much better game than he did versus Appalachian.
When the smoke clears, Pinkney will have delivered a much more consistent effort and the ECU defensive line will have been a deciding force against an inexperienced Mountaineer offensive line.
East Carolina 24 West Virginia 20
Article by Thomas "Bubba" Rosenbaum -