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ECU offense mired in recession

By Denny O'Brien

The post-game slants
and audio bytes, as
penned and digitally
recorded by staff
writer Denny O'Brien.

Game No. 2: ECU vs. WVU Vitals

ECU offense mired in recession
WVU feasts on "anemic" Pirates
Box Score & Statistics
Audio: J.T. and ECU players
C-USA Standings, Schedule & Sores
ECU Schedule, Scores & Links

GREENVILLE — For much of Saturday night's 48-7 loss to West Virginia, the overwhelming question wasn't whether or not East Carolina could notch a win this fall.

It took a fourth-quarter touchdown plunge by Vonta Leach to erase doubts that the Pirates would ever reach the end zone.

That's how low the Pirates' ship sank during a five-day stretch in which they were outscored 88-10 by two teams against which they figured to be competitive. And with consecutive games against Miami and Wake Forest on the radar, ECU may need a lifeboat to survive the rest of the September slate.

"This is something that probably none of us have ever been through, a situation like this," Pirates coach John Thompson said. "But it's something that we're going to get through. We're going to get this thing right, whatever it takes.

"It's hard to gauge when you get beat like that by that lopsided a score that you made improvements. But if you were there Monday and you saw this team, and you were there today, you saw improvements in our team."

Statistically, the Pirates did make strides on an evening that was as much the textbook definition of perfection as West Virginia's waltz through Greenville. After all, East Carolina did muster 125 yards more than it did against Cincinnati Monday.

Still, a healthy portion of ECU's output (136 yards) occurred in the final quarter when the game was well in hand — and with most of the Mountaineers' starters wearing baseball caps.

"Anytime you turn the ball over five times, you're kind of limited in what you can do," Pirates quarterback Desmond Robinson said. "We've just got to go back to the drawing board on Monday, eliminate the turnovers and we can play with anybody. You saw that in the fourth quarter."

Yes, but what fans saw for most of Saturday's blowout was an anemic offense that lacked rhythm and imagination.

When East Carolina did move the chains, it often was followed by a botched snap or deflating turnover. When Pirates quarterbacks dropped back to pass, rarely did they try to loosen the defense by firing deep.

The side effect was another tough day at the office for running backs Marvin Townes and Kevin Fain, who struggled their way to a combined 104 yards on 23 carries.

"We played a good front tonight," Thompson said. "And we did the other day, too. But we've got to be stronger right there. We've got to be better."

Starting with the offensive line, which heading into the season was believed to be the one area lacking question marks. However, two games in, it easily can be argued that the senior-laden, mountain-sized ECU front is the catalyst to the Pirates' offensive woes.

It's hard to fathom a line loaded with all-star potential being pushed around like a collection of dominoes.

"We're frustrated," said receiver Terrance Copper, who finished with a career high 12 catches for 140 yards. "We're frustrated because we can't go out there and win."

That will be the case as long as East Carolina continues to post single digits on the scoreboard. With a defense yielding 44 points and 361 yards rushing per game, the margin for error is zero.

Especially at quarterback, which, with the exception of Copper, was the one position that posted respectable numbers Saturday. Though he did throw an interception and committed three fumbles, Robinson was an efficient 21-of-26 for 194 yards.

"Desmond is our quarterback," Thompson said. "We've gone back and forth... but we've got to establish our leader, our guy. And Desmond is that guy. He's going to be our quarterback.

"Paul is going to keep being ready, but we've got to go with Des. I think Des finally got into some rhythm in the second half and showed some personality and showing some presence that we've seen off and on."

If East Carolina is to become more competitive against a daunting remaining schedule, its offense will have to remain on from the opening snap until the sounding of the final horn.

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This page updated: 02/23/2007 01:52:09 AM.

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