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For the fourth year in a row, Denny O'Brien is a member
for the Harris Interactive College Football Poll,
commissioned by the Bowl Championship Series. As a
service to readers of this site, O'Brien's ballot will
be published in this space each Monday throughout the
Harris Poll is a component of the BCS Standings.
The BCS Standings also take into
account the USA Today Coaches Poll and an average of
computer service rankings.
columnist for Bonesville.net, Bonesville The Magazine
and The Pirates' Chest, O'Brien was nominated to the
Harris Poll panel by Conference USA.
View the entire 114-member
Denny O'Brien's Harris Poll Ballot
4. Texas Christian
7. Boise State
10. Penn State
11. Georgia Tech
14. Southern Cal
15. Ohio State
20. Oklahoma State
23. Notre Dame
25. Virginia Tech
View this Week's Complete
Harris, AP & Coaches Polls
View this Week's
Inaugural 2009 BCS Football Rankings
It's easy to get caught up
in the recent resurgence of the East Carolina rushing attack.
Watching running backs
Dominique Lindsay and Giavanni Ruffin swallow Memphis real estate by
seven and ten yard chunks
last Tuesday was a sign that,
perhaps, the Pirates have discovered their offensive Mojo.
After weeks of floundering
around the 20-point plateau, ECU finally broke through with consecutive
efforts of 49 (Rice)
and 38 points (Memphis)
thanks to the headway it made on the ground.
With a primetime showdown
against Virginia Tech quickly approaching, it's tempting to believe the
Pirates can continue their success on the ground. Maybe they can. And if
they do, there is no reason to think the Pirates don't have a shot
against the more celebrated Hokies.
"When you can turn and run
the ball, that's one of the things that you are able to do," Holtz said
after the Pirates' dominating win over Memphis. "When you can turn and
put some touchdowns on the scoreboard instead of kicking field goals all
the time, it makes a difference.
"We had just talked about
the only way to turn and take the air out of somebody's sail is to be a
physical-natured football team. You can't just throw it around and go,
well we beat you. You've got to be able to line up and run it."
That's largely true for
ECU under Holtz. Though there have been a couple of exceptions over the
past five years, the Pirates have been most successful when they owned
the line of scrimmage and time of possession.
The formula for success
has been a departure from most of Conference USA, and to some degree the
current offensive trends that are prevalent across college football.
But for the Pirates to
take the next step as an offense — and to have any conceivable chance of
beating the Hokies — they must become more prolific when they pass.
That's been the missing element since the season opener against
Appalachian State, and much of it begins with quarterback Patrick
While it is unfair to pin
all of ECU's previous offensive misfortune on Pinkney, there is no
question that he is responsible for some of it. To say that more was
expected from him this season would be selling the preseason
As a sixth-year senior
with some of the Pirates' most historically significant wins under his
belt, it seemed reasonable to believe Pinkney would elevate his level of
play from game manager to playmaker. So far he has remained mostly the
former, albeit with a few more costly misfires than what was
characteristic of him before.
The victory over Memphis
was in some ways a microcosm of Pinkney's season to date. Though it was
hardly his poorest performance, he again struggled to connect on deep
throws when ECU receivers were running freely behind the secondary.
Those are opportunities
the Pirates simply can't afford to squander and expect to have any
chance at beating opponents the caliber of Virginia Tech. And when
Pinkney does hit receivers in stride — like he did twice with Dwayne
Harris against Memphis — ECU's intended targets must do a better job of
securing the ball.
That Pinkney delivered a
perfectly-thrown strike to Darryl Freeney for a 31-yard score in the
third quarter against Memphis at least provided some hope.
"I think the offense is
starting to come into its own a little bit," Holtz said. "I'd certainly
like to think that.
"Darryl Freeney stepping
up the way he did (against Memphis) gives us another option and another
weapon. He's one of those guys who can run. He's really starting to come
into his own. You have Dwayne Harris on one side, and all of a sudden
getting Darryl Freeney involved in the mix a little bit more gives you a
guy with big play speed."
The Pirates must do a good
job of utilizing that speed down the stretch. Ramming the ball through
the heart of the Rice and Memphis defenses is one thing — doing it to a
Bud Foster-coached defense of all-stars is another.
Foster is a smart coach
who will design his plan around ECU's offensive tendencies. Combine that
with the Pirates' victory over the Hokies last season and you can rest
assured that a challenge will be issued to the Tech front seven to be
more physical than ECU's offensive front.
The key to loosening up
the Virginia Tech defense will likely come down to the Pirates’ ability
to throw it. If Pinkney is unable to stretch the defense, the line of
scrimmage could be come a Bermuda Triangle for ECU running backs.
At least Pinkney has
proven his ability to carry that burden before. He'll have to
successfully do it again for the Pirates to win Thursday night.