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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, November 4, 2008

By Brian Bailey

Little rest after season-saving win

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.


Replay Monday night's Brian Bailey Show with guest Vernon Hargreaves. The show, Eastern North Carolina's longest running sports radio call-in show, airs every Monday night at 7 p.m. on Pirate Radio 1250-AM and 930-AM.
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For every huge hit in East Carolina's Sunday night win over Central Florida, there was a dropped pass. This certainly wasn’t a masterpiece, and may have provided more questions than answers.

Who gets the start at quarterback this week? Neither Rob Kass nor Patrick Pinkney was on their “A” games. In fact, Kass reentered the game late after a UCF turnover only to throw an interception.

Pirate coach Skip Holtz has had success with Kass in late game situations before. Kass fired that bullet that tied the game at Texas-El Paso last year. Kass also hit Jamar Bryant on the vertical route that set up the game-winning field goal against Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl.

“We’ve got to be more consistent if we’re going to turn and run the ball,” said Holtz after the 13-10 win in overtime. “Certainly our passing game wasn’t very impressive with sacks, dropped passes and missed opportunities with open receivers.”

Since it's election day, I cast my ballot for Pinkney. His arm isn’t as strong, but his ability to move around buys him extra time. Stalwart offensive lineman Stanley Bryant’s injury really hurts, and adds to the need to feature Pinkney’s footwork under center.

I think we would have seen Dwayne Harris take some snaps to try to get things going, but Harris is evidently still nursing that shoulder injury. He wasn’t nearly as much of the focal point of the offense as he has been. When he’s totally healthy, he can really make things happen from the shotgun, similar to what the Miami Dolphins do with their “Wildcat” offense.

I thought the Pirate special teams did a nice job for the most part. Matt Dodge did have one shank, but he boomed several other punts and put UCF in tough field position a couple of times. Dodge had eight punts on the night with an average of 47 yards per kick, with a longest punt of 66 yards. Were it not for the one shank, his average would have been much over 50 yards per punt for the game.

Ben Hartman missed two long field goals, but he made his next two, including the game-winner in overtime.

Hartman and Holtz started a trend last year in sharing a joke before a crucial kick. Holtz shared this story in his post-game press conference.

“He had one for Halloween,” said Holtz. “He asked why the skeleton didn’t cross the road. … He just didn’t have the guts… (Laughing) He’s just a great kid.”

The Pirates also got a break on what the ESPN announcers kept calling an onside kick. That “on-side” kick almost broke the Knight player’s ankle. Matt Dodge blasted the ball on the ground. It hit the UCF up-man and then rolled neatly back into the arms of a very alert Dustin Lineback. Unfortunately, the Pirates gave it right back on a turnover a couple of plays later.

ECU special teams coach Vernon Hargreaves explained the play this way.

“We were actually trying a hard squib kick,” he said. “On the first one, Matt (Dodge) said there was a player in the way, and he kicked it in the air. We told him to kick it hard and make the guy get out of the way.

"It’s funny. We practiced it 100 times and Matt never hit one of the up men. But he did in the game, didn’t he!”

Even though the Sunday night game was on national television, it had an extremely different feel. I know the publicity is great on ESPN, but college football is still for Saturdays in the fall in my book. Maybe you can throw in a “special” Thursday game every so often, but college football shouldn’t be played on Sunday.

Somehow, the Pirates were able to steal away the win in Orlando. UCF’s only losses in Brighthouse Networks Stadium since the facility opened in 2007 came against Texas and South Florida.

The Pirates continue to control their own destiny as far as winning Conference USA’s East Division. Both the Pirates and Marshall have just one league loss and ECU hosts the Herd for Homecoming this Saturday.

It should be a great atmosphere. Homecoming always provides a big crowd. The Pirates should be after some revenge from last year, when Marshall upset ECU and ended the Pirates' league title shot.

It’s a short week, though, and the Pirates came back with several more bumps and bruises, and the injury to Stanley Bryant.

Coach Holtz meets the media for lunch today.

It’s a short and different week with the Sunday game. Hopefully, the win in Orlando will carry over and help the Pirates take another step towards a spot in the C-USA championship game.


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11/10/2008 12:37:11 AM


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