Pirates pass App-titude test|ECU holds on to win opener

Published 4:06 pm Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sports Writer

GREENVILLE — What began as a breathe taking start for East Carolina ended with fans waiting to exhale as a fourth down, fourth quarter Appalachian State pass spiraled through the air before hitting the ground, and taking with it any chance the Mountaineers had of upsetting its big brothers to the East in both team’s season opener Saturday in Greenville.
Travaris Cadet’s pass was ruled incomplete, and in a way so was the Pirates’ 29-24 win over ASU, as East Carolina failed to play up to the high standards it established in the first half against the FCS Mountaineers.
The Pirates (1-0) did just about everything right in the first two quarters as they racked up 267 yards of total offense as opposed to App State’s mere 63 to take a 27-7 lead into halftime. ECU also held a held a 16:26 to 12:37 time of possession advantage.
After the break, Mountaineers’ coach Jerry Moore replaced starting quarterback DeAndre Presley (7-15, 89 yards, 1 INT) and inserted Cadet, whose cat-quick legs carried ASU to a 17-2 second half run.
The ability to run the ball became the key factor in the second half as ECU failed to do it, and App State became proficient at it. East Carolina gashed the Mountaineers for 159 yards on 24 attempts in the first half. In the second half, facing a stacked line of scrimmage, the Pirates gained only 30 yards on 11 carries.
The time of possesion advantage created by the ablitity to run the ball (17 minutes in the first half, nine in the second half), swung in the Mountaineers favor and placed a heavy burden on the the Pirates’ defense.
After another stalled ECU second-half possession forced punter Matt Dodge (44 yards per punt) to push ASU back to the other side of the field, the Mountaineers prepared to make their last stand from their own 24-yard line down 29-27 with 1:28 left in the game and no timeouts.
Cadet (7-9, 55 yards) marched his team down to the 48, but an exhausted ECU defense dug deep and came up with a third-down sack by defensive end Scotty Robinson, which threw some water on the building ASU fire. That flame was extinguished on the next down when, Cadet missed on a pass attempt over the middle to Coco Hillary (2-16).
After the game East Carolina coach Skip Holtz was relieved to take home a win. Though he acknowledged the Pirates poor play in the second half, he also said, “You only get 12 of these, so any time you get a win I’m happy about it.”
With the quarterback change also came a change in philosophy, as Moore decided to abandon the passing game and rush with Cadet, who ran for one TD and 51 yards on 15 carries.
The move worked, and slowly ground down the ECU defense.
“They did not throw a lot of drop back passes in the second half,” Holtz said. “They were using an empty set and putting the tight end in the backfield as a running back. They kept moving the chains, but we stayed patient and kept the ball in front of us.”
ECU defensive tackle Linval Joseph said the combination of altering the playbook and replacing the QB was potent.
“It was both, changing the quarterback and the scheme,” Joseph said. “He was making plays … He’s a good quarterback and he made some plays. … It’s a win, but we feel like we can play better and we will work real hard for next week.”
Moore, who has coached Appalachian State (0-1) for 21 years, said he was pleased with the effort turned in by his underdog Mountaineers.
“I was proud of our team today,” Moore said. “We were down 22 points going into the fourth quarter and we were about a minute or so away from having a chance to win the game.”
The Pirates got off to a hot start as they scored on their first three possessions. Kentucky transfer Brandon Jackson (5-52) scored the first touchdown of the game on his first ever NCAA carry as the running back took a Patrick Pinkney handoff and dashed 39 yards to glory.
“It felt good, the lineman did a great job blocking and so did my fullback,” Jackson said of his first score. “When you go through a hole untouched it’s pretty easy to score.”
Ben Hartman came in for the extra point and gave ECU a 7-0 lead with 13:19 left in the first quarter. Hartman showed little trouble with his aching hip as he drilled a 26-yard field goal on ECU’s next possession to expand the lead to 10-0.
The Pirates’ defense forced Presley, who was starting in place of ASU star signal caller Armanti Edwards, into a three-and-out, which set up ECU to for another score.
ECU found a nice mix of running and passing early, and at the 4:31 mark Patrick Pinkney hooked up with Reyn Willis for 27-yard TD pass. The scoring reception was Willis’ first of his career and gave ECU a 17-0 lead. Pinkney (12-27, 131, TD 2 INT) started off hot, but like the rest of the ECU offense cooled off in the second half.
The Pirates defense, led by a strong effort at the line by C.J. Wilson (eight tackles), Linval
Joseph (seven tackles), Josh Smith (five tackles) and Jay Ross (five tackles) dominated ASU early holding it to 14 rushing yards on 19 carries.
Linebacker Jeremy Chambliss led the Pirates with 10 tackles, while middle linebacker Nick Johnson had five tackles and a key second-quarter interception.
Overall, the ECU defense played well, but because the offense was stagnated the unit was left on the field too long in the second half. Wilson, the Pirates star defensive end, and several other players cramped up during a second half that saw temperatures hover around 90 degrees.
ECU safety Van Eskridge said the team didn’t drink enough fluids.
“We weren’t necessarily tired (in the fourth quarter), it was more of a cramping issue,” Van Eskridge said. “The heat crept up on us a little bit. It’s been cool this past week, so the heat crept up on us and we didn’t do a good enough job hydrating.”
After another Pirate stop, ECU’s Travis Simmons returned an ASU punt 30 yards to their 21 and on the very next play running back Dominique Lindsay, who missed the 2008 season with a knee injury, scored his first touchdown since he tallied two in the Hawaii Bowl against Boise State to extend the lead to 24-0.
After’s Lindsay’s TD dash with 13:21 left in the second quarter it looked like the rout was on, however, the Pirates’ offense would not score the rest of the game. ECU’s only other points came in the third quarter when the Mountaineers botched a punt attempt in their own endzone which resulted in a safety.
The running game that was so effective early for the Pirates was gone in the second half. Jackson didn’t see any second-half action due to a thumb injury suffered in a preseason scrimmage, while Lindsay was limited due to a shoulder injury. Giavani Ruffin had seven carries for 19 yards, while Jonathan Williams ran four times for 15 yards. Norman Whitley did not have any carries.
Buried Treasure:
The last time East Carolina and Appalachian State played was Nov. 3, 1979, which East Carolina won 38-21. Appalachian State leads the series with a record of 19-11. … P Matt Dodge continued right where he left off last season as he boomed five punts for an average of 44 yards, and twice pinned ASU inside its own 20. Dodge also performed well on kickoffs. Skip Holtz used all three of his kickers today as both Ben Hartman and sophomore Ben Ryan kicked extra points … S Levin Neal hurt his ankle on kickoff coverage in the first quarter and did not return. Derek Blacknell filled in at Neal’s position. … Backup cornerback Emmanuel Davis also got hurt on Saturday as he injured his shoulder. … Quarterback turned tight end Rob Kass dropped his first reception attempt near endzone in second quarter. … The 43,279 fans that packed Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium made it thee ninth largest crowd in Pirates’ history.
Appalachian St. 0 7 0 17 — 24
East Carolina 17 10 2 0 — 29
First Quarter
ECU—Jackson 39 run (Hartman kick), 13:19.
ECU—FG Hartman 26, 10:05.
ECU—Willis 27 pass from Pinkney (Ryan kick), 4:31.
Second Quarter
ECU—Lindsay 21 run (Ryan kick), 13:21.
App—Presley 3 run (Vitaris kick), 8:12.
ECU—FG Hartman 25, :57.
Third Quarter
ECU—Safety, 7:29.
Fourth Quarter
App—D.Moore 1 run (Vitaris kick), 13:47.
App—Cadet 1 run (Vitaris kick), 8:41.
App—FG Vitaris 43, 3:24.
First downs 18 18
Rushes-yards 48-102 35-189
Passing 144 131
Comp-Att-Int 14-25-1 12-27-2
Return Yards 72 30
Punts-Avg. 5-33.8 5-44.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-62 9-109
Time of Possession 33:39 26:21
RUSHING—Appalachian St., D.Moore 17-37, Cadet 15-35, C.Baker 4-18, Presley 12-12. East Carolina, Lindsay 15-105, Jackson 5-46, G.Ruffin 7-16, J.Williams 4-15, Pinkney 2-5, Harris 1-4, Team 1-(minus 2).
PASSING—Appalachian St., Presley 7-15-1-89, Cadet 7-9-0-55, Team 0-1-0-0. East Carolina, Pinkney 12-27-2-131.
RECEIVING—Appalachian St., D.Moore 4-41, Quick 3-47, Cline 3-24, Hillary 2-16, C.Baker 1-8, Elder 1-8. East Carolina, Harris 4-37, Freeney 3-20, Bryant 2-29, Willis 1-27, Lindsay 1-9, Taylor 1-9.