Game No. 4: ECU 19, UCF 14
Saturday, September 26, 2009
By Denny O'Brien
ECU still sputtering
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GREENVILLE — It doesn’t feel like three
weeks have passed since East Carolina roared to a commanding 24-0 advantage
over Appalachian State.
Truthfully it seems like three years.
Since that early offensive explosion
against the Mountaineers, the Pirates have faced the football equivalent of
an embargo on the opposing end zone. At time, trips to the red zone might as
well have been expeditions into the dead zone.
their 19-14 win over Conference USA
East rival Central Florida on Saturday, the Pirates again had issues dealing
with that tricky barricade protecting the end zone. Despite resounding
success moving the ball between the 20's, the ECU offense struggled mightily
once paydirt was in close sight.
It generated a much-too-testy margin in a
game that truthfully should have been decided by at least three scores.
“You get frustrated and upset because you
look at what could have been,” Pirates Coach Skip Holtz said. “To
(potentially) play a complete game and not turn the ball over.
“For us to be a good football team, we’re
going to have to get a lot better than we are today. We’ve got guys playing
hard, we’ve got some great individual efforts out there right now, but right
now as far as playing together as a team and clicking on all cylinders,
we’re making way too many mistakes right now.”
And too many of them are unforced.
Receiver Dwayne Harris, who scored earlier
on a 25-yard scamper from the Wild Buc formation, couldn’t connect with a
wide open Rob Kass from two yards out. Though Kass was the intended receiver
of record, the closest person in purple was standing beneath the scoreboard.
That occurred just moments after receiver
Alex Taylor dropped a perfectly thrown pass from quarterback Patrick Pinkney
inside the UCF five-yard line. Instead of first and goal, the Pirates were
forced to punt from the UCF 40.
Those were just a couple of the mistakes
that prevented the Pirates from blowing a game open that, outside of a last
gasp UCF drive, they dominated statistically. But until ECU can consistently
finish drives, this will continue to be a team that must grind out
low-scoring bruisefests against C-USA foes.
“It’s really close,” Kass said about the
offense. “The coaches are putting us in great situations — Coach Fitch and
Coach Holtz — on the offensive side of the ball.
“You know what, there were a couple of
times where there were glimpses of greatness there today. It’s just a matter
of all 11 guys working together and putting it together for a touchdown each
and every drive.”
With the Pirates lacking a legitimate home
run threat, there is an even higher premium on each player executing his
assignment with flawless precision. Right now there doesn’t appear to be a
gamebreaker with the speed that can overcome even the smallest mistake in
the trenches or on the perimeter.
While the scoreboard makes it easy to
pinpoint the flaws plaguing the offense, there should be no overlooking the
fact that ECU displayed many encouraging signs. And that starts under center
where Pinkney played by far his best game to date this season.
Amid media and fan criticism, Pinkney cooly
completed 27 of 40 passes for 293 yards and a score. He would have easily
eclipsed the 350-yard plateau were it not for a handful of drops.
Brandon Jackson also displayed that he
could carry a heavy workload. He carried it 20 times against a physical
front seven and demonstrated the ability to both make people miss and churn
extra yardage in a crowd.
And then there is Harris, whose versatility
makes him a weapon from multiple positions on the field. It’s clear that the
ECU staff has wisely placed an emphasis on increasing the number of times
that he touches the ball.
But there still is this business about red
zone production, with which ECU has found limited success to date. Uncover a
solution for that detail and this team has a chance to go pretty far.
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09/27/2009 04:54:51 AM