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Mistakes at Wake call for overhaul at QB

By Denny O'Brien
©2003 Bonesville.net

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

Game No. 4 Vitals: ECU at WFU

• Mistakes at Wake call for QB overhaul
• Miscue malady scuttles Pirates again
• Box Score & Statistics
• Audio: J.T., ECU players & Grobe
• C-USA Standings, Schedule & Scores
• ECU Schedule, Scores & Links
 

WINSTON-SALEM — After four games, we now have enough by which to gauge. There have been enough fumbles, interceptions and squandered opportunities to pass fair judgment.

East Carolina's primary issue on offense is under center — and Pirates coaches seriously should consider making a change.

That's the verdict from last night's 34-16 loss at Wake Forest, ECU's third straight to the Demon Deacons.

On the other hand, first-year Pirates coach John Thompson has a closer vantage point and a lot more say-so than this one-man jury.

"We asked a lot out of (quarterback) Desmond (Robinson) tonight," Thompson said. "We ran a little power with him, moved him around a little bit. We tried to stretch the field a little bit. Desmond looks to me like he's just getting better and better and better every game."

One area in which he isn't improving is the end zone, where the Pirates seldom visit these days. One-third of the way through the season, East Carolina has tallied just three touchdowns, one on special teams.

To break it down, that's one offensive touchdown every two games. In the meantime, there has been no shortage of turnovers.

"It's an easy story when you look at it," Thompson said. "We did some good things, but when you turn the ball over... turnovers equal touchdowns."

Much of ECU's offensive firepower occurred between the 30's, which is true to form with the previous three games.

Robinson appears somewhat comfortable in the middle of the field — as long as Terrance Copper is open — but he seems to lack savvy and poise in the red zone. The 5'10" junior doesn't fair much better when the field is flipped, or when the mood shifts, either.

"We're still in the ballgame then," Thompson said about Deacs receiver Jason Anderson's 79-yard touchdown catch. "You just have to put that behind you and come on back.

"I think we did. But then we go right back out there again and turn the thing over again, and those turn into touchdowns."

In this case, it was the ballgame.

By and large, a team is defined by the play of its field general, who is the one player who must be relied upon at the time of greatest need. However, with the game on the line Saturday and the Pirates within striking distance, Robinson made an ill-advised throw into double coverage, icing the game.

"We hawk the ball and go after the football pretty good," Deacons coach Jim Grobe said. "Tonight, the turnovers helped us big-time. Not just from a score standpoint, it really helped us from a momentum standpoint. It kind of energized our football team a little bit."

And deflated the Pirates.

Now 0-4, East Carolina is in desperate need of a spark to ignite an offense stuck in neutral. Though the Pirates definitely were more creative with their play selection against Wake, that isn't the indelible impression left by the game.

For the most part, this is a team that is careless with the football, a direct reflection of the quarterback. To date, Robinson has tossed seven interceptions — and no touchdown passes — to go along with a generous number of fumbles.

At most programs, that would warrant a benching, if for no other reason than to give the backup a chance.

The burning question these days is the whereabouts of Paul Troth, the prep All-American and returning starter. Given the offense's struggles, it seems logical to give him a realistic opportunity to see what he can produce the second time around.

Yet, the 6'5" junior has not been given enough game-speed reps to develop a rhythm. In one sense, he has become the forgotten man in a program most commonly identified by its rich quarterback lineage.

Considering that most quarterbacks make their greatest strides from year one to year two, it may be time to call his number again.

Robinson, who saw meaningful action last season as Troth's understudy, worked hard to earn a shot to establish himself as ECU's No. 1 quarterback. So far, his sustained chance to become the new-age Pirate gunslinger has widely missed the target.

If unapparent issues have earned Troth an irrevocable sideline pass, circumstances would seem to warrant that a raw but talented QB further down the depth chart deserves a trial at lifting this team's sagging fortunes.

Send an e-mail message to Denny O'Brien.

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This page updated: 02/23/2007 01:52:11 AM.
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