Pirates’ quarterbacks struggle against Cougars

Published 1:26 am Sunday, September 28, 2008

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — East Carolina used a quarterback platoon system to good effect last year. On Saturday, the No. 23 Pirates used it out of necessity.
Neither starter Patrick Pinkney nor replacement Rob Kass could generate much offense in a 41-24 loss to the Houston Cougars at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The loss, ECU’s second straight, squared its Conference USA record to 1-1 and will surely drop the Pirates (3-2 overall) from the Top 25.
Pinkney and Kass went a combined 15 for 28 for 149 yards. Pinkney clicked on 10 of 20 passes for 100 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while Kass went 5 of 8 for 49 yards and a pickoff.
While an inconsistent and seemingly predictable offense, coupled with costly turnovers, left the Pirates scratching their heads, Houston quarterback Case Keenum had a field day for the Cougars (2-3, 1-1).
The sophomore threw for a career-high 399 yards, hitting 36 of 44 attempts for three touchdowns.
Pinkney, mentioned in some Heisman hopeful talks after leading the Pirates to upset wins over Virginia Tech and West Virginia earlier in the season, made his fifth start of the season. In the previous four games, leading the Pirates to a 3-1 record, Pinkney had completed 82 of 115 passes (71.3 percent) for 917 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.
However, with the Pirates generating just 94 yards of offense in the first two quarters, Holtz pulled Pinkney in favor of Kass. Pinkney was just 4 of 10 for 15 yards with an interception in the first half.
Holtz looked to light a spark in the dormant ECU offense and went with Kass to start the second half. Kass had appeared in two previous games and had thrown the ball just three times, completing one of them for seven yards.
A 41-yard pass play from Kass to Dwayne Harris set up a 4-yard scoring burst by Brandon Simmons, pulling the Pirates within 21-17 with 6:02 to play in the third.
The 6-4, 250-pound Kass, who started seven games a year ago, tried to rally his troops with his team trailing 31-17. However, his pass intended for Jamar Bryant early in the fourth quarter was picked off by Quinte Williams, who returned it 44 yards to the ECU 3-yard line. Two plays later, the Cougars increased their lead to 38-17.
Pinkney re-entered the game for Kass, but didn’t fare any better. On his first play of the second half, Pinkney coughed up the ball and Houston’s Tate Stewart pounced on it.
Pinkney shook off the turnover, which didn’t result in any Houston points, and fired a 12-yard scoring strike to Jamar Bryant to make it 38-24.