Game 7: ECU 45, UTEP 42 (OT)
Sunday, October 14, 2007
By Denny O'Brien
Memorable season unfolding for
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EL PASO, TX — It’s easy to see why Skip
Holtz spent eight months grooming Rob Kass to guide the East Carolina
offense. That much was evident the moment Kass took the wheel in the second
half of the Pirates’ victory over Houston.
In ECU’s thrilling 45-42 overtime victory
over Texas-El Paso, Kass spent much of the night looking nothing like a
championship quarterback. He missed open receivers, threw interceptions and
occasionally looked uncomfortable against one of the nation’s softest
Maybe that’s because too many ticks
remained on the clock. When hardly any remained, Kass awoke from his second
half slumber in time to engineer ECU’s most improbable comeback in years.
“He threw some strikes — those two hitches
on the sideline, and then throwing that ball in the end zone at the end,”
ECU coach Skip Holtz said about the exquisitely-orchestrated drive that
wiped out a seven-point deficit as regulation expired. “When he had to make
the throws at the end, he did.
“We work it every day. We work the
two-minute drill every single day. We go our offense versus our defense, so
it’s good on good, and speed on speed. Sometimes we do it, and it takes us
six minutes to get down the field, but we don’t even keep a clock
They did at UTEP, and it took Kass only 34
seconds and five plays to usher the Pirates 71 yards down the field.
While the Pirates no doubt were given a
boost by a 15-yard face mask, it was Kass and his sure-handed receivers who
did the most meaningful work. Twice he found Jamar Bryant on the sidelines
before firing the 34-yard scoring strike to seldom-used Juwon Crowell.
“Even with (four) seconds to go on the last
play, we knew that we could get it done,” Kass said. “If there was a single
tick left on the clock, we had an opportunity and we were going to do it.
“Jamar Bryant did a great job of catching
the ball and getting out of bounds… Juwon Crowell did a great job, he
actually saw a little opening, broke inside, and I saw him. I stuck a foot
in the ground and threw the ball as hard as I could and just prayed.”
During that final drive, Kass displayed the
type of poise that generally separates good quarterbacks from average ones.
His calm demeanor amid pressure and chaos suggested the scenario was nothing
new to the strong-armed sophomore.
When you consider his other qualifications,
Kass possesses the type of boiler plate skills that went into the position’s
inception. Somewhere in the football’s quarterbacking laboratory, big,
smart, rifle-armed athletes were invented, the type who can overwhelm an
opponent with solid reads at the line of scrimmage and deadly deep outs.
Kass firmly fits that mold. At 6’4”, 247
pounds, he has pro stature and the proven ability to make all the necessary
throws, to go along with the intelligence to break down a defense before the
ball is snapped.
He’s certainly displayed a nice skill for
delivering the deep ball with both precision and touch. Exiting spring
practice, that no doubt was a strong selling point for a fan base that is
downright finicky about the quarterback position.
The passing game is not his sole
capability. Kass's brawny physique made his quarterback sneak in overtime
for the game-winning touchdown the logical play call.
When the likes of Jeff Blake, Marcus
Crandell, David Garrard, and James Pinkney are a member of your quarterback
fraternity, even the most talented high school blue chipper can be a tough
That Kass also has shown the resolve
necessary to overcome self-incurred adversity speaks volumes about his
character. With both humility and a renewed drive, he patiently awaited his
turn while Patrick Pinkney skyrocketed up the depth chart and deep into the
hearts of Pirate partisans.
Similar scenarios have proven a formula for
impulsive decisions to transfer. For Kass it proved the ultimate gut check,
a blaring wakeup call that he obviously answered.
“It says a lot for somebody to bounce back
from some of the things that I have,” Kass said. “I couldn’t have done it
without my family first, and without this coaching staff and these players.”
“They believed in me as much as I believed
in them. I couldn’t ask for a better group of teammates. These guys, good,
bad, and indifferent, they’re always there by your side. We’re a family
Against the Conference USA West leader,
this was a family that stuck together until the end.
At this stage it’s too early to predict if
Kass will one day find his name among some of ECU’s best. Too many games
await and scores of passes remain to be thrown.
It’s also too soon to think that ECU’s
second Lone Star stunner will springboard the Pirates into one of those
memorable seasons that produces a championship banner.
Given the duress the Pirates have faced
during their current three-game winning streak, you can bet this bunch isn’t
looking past its next practice.
But after Kass’s redeeming performance
Saturday, both the Pirates and their field general at least have a chance to
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10/14/2007 04:56:34 AM