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Prancing Pinkney poised, polished

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Nobody could blame Patrick Pinkney if he spent Sunday afternoon icing down his shoulder.
The East Carolina junior quarterback put the Pirates on his shoulders Saturday and helped carry them to a thrilling 34-31 win over North Carolina at a rocking, boisterous Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. His performance, where he put on more moves than those dancer-wannabes on Dancing With The Stars, was eye-popping.
Pinkney completed 31 of his 41 throws for 406 yards, the second highest yardage total in Pirate history, and three touchdowns. Mind you, it was the first start of Pinkney’s career.
Only David Garrard, now the starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars, has thrown for more yards in a single game. Garrard was good for 414 yards, completing 33-of-44 passes, against Memphis on Nov. 21, 1998.
Jeff Blake didn’t throw for that many yards. Nor Marcus Crandell. Or James Pinkney. Or Dan Gonzalez.
When the Pirates took the field against the Tar Heels, the initial plan wasn’t to have Pinkney shoulder the load. Holtz wanted to get the ground game going but, once he saw that wasn’t working, he switched to “plan B.”
The first touchdown toss of Pinkney’s career came on a 78-yard connection with tailback Chris Johnson, who did the bulk of the work by sprinting away from the North Carolina defenders. The score is the 10th longest in ECU history.
Pinkney added a 15-yard TD toss to tight end Davon Drew in the second quarter and a 24-yard scoring strike to Johnson in the third quarter.
It was Pinkney’s poise and scrambling ability that helped to open up the passing game.
Pinkney, who led ECU’s rushers with a modest 22 yards, said he’d prefer to stay put, but isn’t opposed to sneaking out of the pocket.
Pinkney’s patience has paid off. Through two games, Pinkney is 45-of-66 (68.2 percent) for 521 yards. He’s thrown three touchdowns and has yet to be intercepted.
Pinkney is also keeping his receivers happy. He’s thrown to 10 different teammates.
Jamar Bryant and Phillip Henry lead the Pirates with 10 receptions apiece.
Pinkney, who got countless congratulatory slaps on his shoulder pads following ECU’s first win over the Tar Heels since 1975, gets his chance for an encore Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The Pirates open Conference USA play against Southern Miss.