Pirates not overlooking Wolfpack this time

Published 11:51 pm Saturday, September 20, 2008

By Staff
By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
Last season, East Carolina waltzed into the North Carolina State contest riding a three-game win streak and got walloped by a 1-5 N.C. State squad, 34-20, as Wolfpack quarterback Daniel Evans torched the Pirates’ secondary for 335 yards and three touchdowns.
This time around, ECU enters the N.C. State game as the hot team once again, racing to a 3-0 start and a No. 15 national ranking early in 2008, while the Wolfpack have struggled to a 1-2 mark.
The Pirates learned a valuable lesson a year ago, and when they visit Raleigh today for a noon kickoff, they expect a dogfight until the very end.
Coach Skip Holtz also believes that the Pirates will find themselves in a close ball game this afternoon.
Though the Wolpack have struggled to put points on the scoreboard early in the year, they believe they are on the right track offensively.
Redshirt freshman Russell Wilson is starting to get more comfortable at the quarterback position, while Greenville native Andre Brown has proven to be a multiple threat out of the backfield, with 208 yards on the ground and 60 receiving yards. The Pack also features a couple of big wideouts in Jarvis Williams and Owen Spencer.
Defensively, the Pack has played well, with linebacker Nate Irving, defensive end Willie Young and cornerbacks DeAndre Morgan and Jeremy Gray leading the way.
For the Pirates to be successful, they’ll need quarterback Patrick Pinkney to continue his stellar play.
Pinkney has completed 75.9 percent of passes in 2008 and has thrown for 707 yards and four scores.
The Pirates also will need to find a way to tighten up their defense.
After losing starting linebacker Quentin Cotton to a season-ending ACL tear in the first half against the Green Wave, the Pirates’ defense showed signs of vulnerability in the second half, giving up a pair of deep pass competions and allowing two second half touchdowns.
While ECU believes that the Wolfpack’s 1-2 mark is deceiving, on the other sideline, N.C. State has nothing but good things to say about the Pirates’ 2008 season.
No. 15 East Carolina-N.C. State scouting reports
NCSU: Redshirt sophomore Russell Wilson won out a heavily contested quarterback competition in the summer as he topped senior Daniel Evans and junior Harrison Beck to nab the starting spot for the Wolfpack.
Wilson suffered a mild concussion in the Wolfpack season opener, but returned to play against Clemson in last week’s 27-9 loss to the No. 23 Tigers, and showed improvement as the game went on.
Second-year coach Tom O’Brien loves Wilson’s athleticism.
On the season Wilson is 11-26 with one interception for 104 yards, while he has rushed 17 times for 52 yards.
Injuries have crushed NCSU so far this season, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Senior running backs Jamelle Eugene (ankle) and Toney Baker (knee) have missed all three games in 2008. Eugene was listed as probable for today.
Greenville native Andre Brown has stepped up and become the lead back for the Pack. Last week against No. 23 Clemson the senior led the team in rushing (64) and receiving yards (51).
NCSU will also be without wideout Donald Bowens, who is more than likely out for the season with a broken jaw, as well as highly regarded tight end Anthony Hill (strained chest muscle).
Starting at wide receiver will be sophomores Jarvis Williams and Owen Spencer. Though they lack experience, both bring size and athleticism.
ECU: Patrick Pinkney struggled at times last Saturday in the Pirates’ 28-24 win over Tulane, but his numbers were still pretty good as he finished the day going 22-32 with a pick, while tallying 260 yards. Pinkney also threw two TD passes, including a game-winning toss to Jamar Bryant late in the fourth quarter.
It would help out Pinkney and the Pirates’ offense immensely if they could establish a more-than-serviceable rushing attack. Against the Green Wave ECU carried the ball 30 times for a total of a mere 56 yards.
ECU suffered a giant setback on the offensive line as it will be without starting left tackle Stanley Bryant. D.J. Scott will slide over from right tackle to fill Bryant’s vacant spot, while junior Terence Campbell will take Scott’s place.
NCSU: Sophomore weak side linebacker Nate Irving has emerged as a stud for the Wolfpack, as his three interceptions rank second in the nation, and his 28 tackles has him at 36th in the country.
The Wolfpack runs a 4-3 defense, and like the Pirates, love to drop back in zone coverage and play the passing lanes. NCSU is currently second in the nation with seven interceptions, and aside from Irving, features four players who have picks.
NCSU is a little weaker up front today, as they will be playing without DT Alan-Michael Cash, who had to have knee surgery earlier this week.
ECU: The Pirates will have to go the rest of the season without star outside linebacker Quentin Cotton. The senior was in the midst of what might have been his best game of the season against Tulane, as he scooped up a C.J. Wilson blocked punt and scored a TD before injuring his knee in the first half. Cotton’s role in an ECU pass defense that ranks 18th in the nation was critical as he had two picks in three games.
The Pirates hope that they won’t suffer too much of a drop-off with replacement Nick Johnson, but the Cotton injury weakens ECU’s depth at the linebacker position.
Special Teams
NCSU: The Wolfpack kicking game was a disaster last week versus Clemson. Place kicker Josh Czajkowski had a PAT blocked, and later missed a 25-yard field goal attempt, while punter Bradley Pierson booted two punts that failed to travel 30 yards.
ECU: Punter Matt Dodge continues to do a solid job for the Pirates. Against the Green Wave, Dodge was asked to punt five times, and averaged 46.6 yards per punt.
The Pirates will also get a much-needed boost with the return of starting field goal kicker Ben Hartman, who returns from a hip injury. The Pirates have already missed two field goals in Hartman’s absence.