Young guns stepping up for Pirates

Published 5:19 am Monday, October 8, 2007

By Staff
Commentary by KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
Not only are East Carolina’s young players cutting their teeth this season, they’re taking a big bite.
ECU third-year coach Skip Holtz used 11 freshmen in Saturday’s 52-38 win over Central Florida, which vaulted the Pirates (3-3, 2-1) into first place in the Conference USA East standings. It hasn’t simply been because Holtz wants to get his young players some snaps; it’s been out of necessity.
Playing such a grueling schedule, including stops at Top-25 teams Virginia Tech and West Virginia along with a road trip to defending C-USA champion Houston, several Pirates have been battered and bruised. That has given a handful of freshman a chance to play.
That hasn’t been the only reason.
Holtz doesn’t just care about his young men as football players, but he cares about them as students. Because of what he called “academic issues,” he sat down starters Van Eskridge and Jerek Hewett. That opened the door for freshmen Travis Simmons, Dekota Marshall, Darryl Reynolds and Melvin Patterson to play at defensive back.
The players filled in admirably. The young guys made memorable impressions in front of 42,777 rabid ECU fans at a packed Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Simmons had a career-high nine tackles and came up with a key interception, the first of his career, which he returned 80 yards to set up an ECU touchdown. Instead of watching the Knights go up 38-24, Simmons’ pick helped the Pirates tie the game at 31-31.
Marshall had a career-high six tackles and recovered a fumble.
Reynolds had one tackle.
Patterson came up with four stops.
Also on the defensive side of the ball, lineman Linval Joseph had four tackles while Willie Smith forced a fumble and had one tackle.
Juan Quintanilla saw his first college action on special teams. He was credited with two tackles and a forced fumble.
Pure athlete Dwayne Harris broke off a career-long 40-yard run.
D.J. Scott got the start at right tackle.
Linebacker A.J. Johnson and John Williams also saw action.
Getting those young players on the field will be beneficial for the Pirates, not just for the rest of the season but for the future.
And don’t forget that while sophomore Rob Kass did see limited action last year, he got his first career start on Saturday night. Kass certainly made the most of it, throwing for 201 yards and three touchdowns. He added a touchdown run to boot.
Kass has been efficient this season, completing 20-of-38 passes (52.6 percent) for 322 yards. He’s thrown four touchdowns and, just as importantly, no interceptions.
The future looks bright.
Kevin Travis is the sports editor of the Washington Daily News. You may reach him at 940-4217, or by e-mail at You may also view his blog, KT’s Take On Sports, at