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Game No. 1: ECU 29, App. St. 24


Inside Game Day
Saturday, September 5, 2009

By Al Myatt

Pirates have work to do

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

GREENVILLE — East Carolina accomplished what it set out to do on Saturday, which was to get a season-opening win over Appalachian State, but it was obvious during ECU's 29-24 victory that the Pirates are a work in progress.

ASU is a championship football program and that experience allowed the Mountaineers to keep tinkering until they found some things that worked in their first trip to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium since 1978.

ASU has won the last four Southern Conference championships and captured the national title in the Football Championship Subdivision in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Coach Jerry Moore is in his 21st season with the program and has a high degree of continuity among his coaching staff. The Mountaineers were ranked No. 1 in the FCS preseason polls.

The Pirates led 24-0 after a 21-yard scoring run by Dominique Lindsay with 13:21 left in the first half but ECU's Matt Dodge, a Morehead City native who punted at Appalachian in 2005, figured a comeback was coming.

"Early on, we were kind of getting yards kind of easy," Dodge said. "I was like, that's gonna stop because I mean their coaching staff's too good. They're gonna make the adjustments and they did. We were lucky to come out with a win."

ECU managed just 30 yards rushing in the second half and got just four first downs. ASU packed the box defensively in the second half and dared ECU to beat them through the air. The only points the Pirates managed in the second half came courtesy of a self-inflicted safety by the Mountaineers.

"What you have to do is look at the first half stats and the second half stats," said Pirates coach Skip Holtz. "It's two completely different games."

The Mountaineers got a great performance from third string quarterback Travaris Cadet. Starter DeAndre Presley played in place of senior Armanti Edwards, who was out of action after taking 35 stitches in his right foot from a lawnmowing accident on August 5.

Cadet ran 15 times for 35 yards and completed seven of nine passes for 55 yards. Cadet came in with ASU trailing 29-7 and led a rally that got the Mountaineers within the final 29-24 margin.

"I give App State an awful lot of credit and Coach (Jerry) Moore," Holtz said. "I thought they did a great job. They came out here. They competed like crazy and they fought all the way to the end.

"We knew some of the things that would give us problems with their offense and what they do. They spread you out and they run their quarterback. Early in the game they were trying to throw some drop-back passes. We were able to get some sacks and get ahead of the chains.

"In the second half, they more or less took the drop-back passing game out of it and started running their quarterback. They put a tight end in the backfield and started running Cadet. They give you fits. We got in a bend don't break situation. We didn't want to give them anything cheap. We wanted to make them earn everything they got."

The Mountaineers tightened up defensively, too.

"Offensively, they might be as ugly as it gets — what I saw in the second half from an offensive standpoint," Holtz said. "I did not think it was very impressive. We struggled. ... We certainly didn't put a complete game together."

The Mountaineers got one last chance starting at their own 24 with 1:24 remaining and no timeouts left. ECU made a stop as Scotty Robinson sacked Cadet for an 8-yard loss on first-and-10 at the ASU 48. Senior linebacker Nick Johnson forced Cadet to hurry on fourth-and-10 from the 48 in the final seconds and his pass intended for CoCo Hillary was incomplete with Van Eskridge in coverage for the Pirates.

ECU must travel to face another set of Mountaineers at West Virginia next Saturday and will not have the same degree of fan support that the crowd of 43,279 provided against ASU.

"We've got to come out and pick it up next week, going against West Virginia," Eskridge said. "So we'll turn our focus to them and just try to come back and make a better effort."

ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney didn't have one of his more productive days, completing just 12 of 27 passes for 131 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

"We knew Appalachian State had great fight in them," Pinkney said. "They weren't going to quit. It's all about finishing games. We had opportunities. You have to take advantage of them no matter what happens. Football is an up and down game. We got the 'W.' Our defense made a good stop at the end."

Pirate running back Dominique Lindsay made his first start after sitting out all of the 2008 season after a preseason knee injury. Lindsay was excited to be back in front of the Pirate Nation. He ran 15 times for 105 yards with a score but only 20 of those yards came in the second half.

"We came out and really got after them with the running game," Lindsay said. "The running game was working real well. I think in the second half we came out a little complacent. They're three time back-to-back champions from their division.

"They came out with the heart of a champion and always throwing punches. That's something that I think we need to work on a lot."

Well, maybe not throwing punches from a literal standpoint. That didn't work out too well for Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount on Thursday night. But the Pirates could improve on their consistency of effort and intensity.

One positive aspect of the less than complete performance is that Holtz feels he will have his team's attention in the aftermath of the scare from Appalachian State. The Pirates are champions in their own right, having won Conference USA in 2008.

"We probably have them right where we want them at this point," Holtz said. "They know we have a long way to go. They know we've got to get an awful lot better.

"If the adage is true that you improve more from first to second game, then I think we have a chance to be pretty good, but obviously we've got a lot of improving to do."

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09/07/2009 01:21:02 AM


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