Purple-Gold game — don’t rush to judgement

Published 3:14 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2009

By By GREG KATSKI, Staff Writer
Nothing says spring like grown men beating the crap out of one another — at least, that is, in eastern Carolina.
While the Diamond Bucs have been kicking up dirt, the East Carolina football team has been gearing up for the true annual rite of spring, the Purple — Gold Game this Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium at 3 p.m.
As is the case every April, the stadium’s stands will be packed with Pirate faithful clamoring to get their first look at the next great ECU player, the next Chris Johnson or David Garrard.
I have one word of advice for these rabid ECU football fans — patience.
A lot can happen between the Purple — Gold Game and ECU’s first matchup of the season against Division I-AA powerhouse Appalachian State on Sept. 5. So please, from one Pirate diehard to another, don’t put too much stake in the game. Just grab some good ol’ North Carolina bar-b-cue and enjoy some semi-serious smashmouth football.
If the Purple squad’s offense fails to score a touchdown with projected starting quarterback Patrick Pinkney behind center, it doesn’t mean Pinkney is doomed for a horrible year. On the flipside, if the Gold team’s defense recovers three fumbles and gets two interceptions, it certainly doesn’t say the Pirates’ defense will average five turnovers a game.
Case in point — two years ago, as a, shall I say, budding professional sports writer, I covered the Purple — Gold Game for The East Carolinian, ECU’s student newspaper.
I was the paper’s sports editor at the time, and as boss man and a football freak, I hogged all the coverage of the 2007 ECU football team’s spring practice season.
The 2007 squad was definitely in a transitional period at the time, leading to many intriguing spring storylines.
How would the team replace both four-year starting quarterback James Pinkney (remember him?) and standout wide receiver Aundrae Allison, who were lost to graduation?
The tandem of Pinkney and Allison had seemingly willed the Pirates to their first bowl game in years during the 2006 season, and left a gaping hole to fill.
Who would emerge at the running back position, and provide a consistent goalline scoring punch that was sorely missed in 2006?
How would the team shore up a weak defensive secondary at gave up far too many big plays?
These questions went unanswered during the 2007 Purple — Gold Game.
If my memory serves correct, the press box was singing the praises of freshman running back Norman Whitley after the game, not Chris Johnson. Whitley played scarcely during the 2007 season, while Johnson broke just about every offensive record in ECU’s books, led the Pirates to a huge win over a ranked Boise St. squad in the Hawaii Bowl and was selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Whitley’s current status with the team is in doubt, last I checked.
And how about a replacement at quarterback for that 2007 team?
Head Coach Skip Holtz gave the job to redshirt sophomore Rob Kass before the 2007 Purple — Gold Game, only for Kass to give it back one week before the season started thanks to a DUI-charge.
Kass performed exceptionally well during that Purple — Gold Game, much better than Patrick Pinkney, who was listed as the team’s third string quarterback.
Well Kass got drunk, slipped up and moved to the back of ECU’s quarterback pack.
The Pirates’ second string quarterback, redshirt sophomore Brett Clay, started the first game of that year at Virginia Tech.
His time under center for ECU lasted about five plays, before he was picked off at his own 10-yard line by “Macho” Harris, who returned the pick for a Tech touchdown.
After such a blunder, Holtz had no other choice but to put in his oft-injured third string quarterback, Pinkney.
Well folks, Pinkney played himself into the starting job and has held on to it since.
Funny thing is, I don’t remember any talk about him during that Purple — Gold Game. I don’t even remember him playing.
If some walk-on or fifth string running back has a huge game this year and everyone is ready to crown them the next big thing, ignore the talk.
The Pirates should be very exceptional and entertaining this upcoming season, thanks to a veteran quarterback and stout offensive and defensive lines, not because of some miracle walk-on superstar.
So, if you’re going to the game Saturday, take it at face value. And for what it’s worth, $10 will get you a ticket and a warm plate of Carolina bar-b-cue.