Wilson gives ECU fans a scare|Defensive end forced to leave game with cramps

Published 4:07 pm Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sports Editor

GREENVILLE — When C.J. Wilson fell to the turf and grabbed at his knee early in the third quarter, a hush came over Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Luckily for Wilson, and East Carolina fans, the senior defensive end was just experiencing cramps.
However, those cramps came back to haunt Wilson, a former standout at Northside High School, for the rest of the game. After having to be helped off the field for the third time in ECU’s season-opening 29-24 win over Appalachian State on Saturday afternoon, that ended Wilson’s day prematurely.
“This was my first time cramping ever,” Wilson said after the game. “There’s a first time for everything. I know I have to push more fluids into me next week.”
Wilson, who wears No. 95, was on pace to shatter his single-game high for tackles. He had nine tackles against Houston on Sept. 29, 2007.
By halftime Saturday, the 6-4, 290-pound senior was within two tackles of equaling that mark. Wilson recorded three tackles, including one for a loss, in the first quarter. He added four more in the second quarter to give him seven by halftime.
He finished with eight tackles, but cramps kept him from adding to that total.
“I think I did okay, but I was still thinking too much,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t playing my game; I was playing their game. Hopefully, I can do better next week.
“I don’t care about the numbers. I just care about helping this team win.”
The day started out splendidly for Wilson and the Pirates. He was excited after running from the Pirate ship, through the purple fog, and onto the field for his final home opener.
“I just love it,” Wilson said. “I was looking at my teammates ahead of me and behind me. It’s a great feeling.”
That great feeling continued as the Pirates took a 27-7 halftime lead. The defense held the Mountaineers to four first downs and 63 yards of total offense.
The second half wasn’t nearly the same, and Wilson could only watch.
Wilson first went down with 12:54 to play in the third quarter. He went to a bench near the sideline and stretched out his leg. After some rest and getting some fluids into him, Wilson returned to action on Appalachian State’s next offensive series.
Wilson made the tackle on his first play since returning to the field, taking down Devon Moore for his eighth tackle of the game, but also limped off the field with another cramp. He grabbed at the back of his leg and hopped to the sideline.
After getting a break, Wilson was back on the field late in the third quarter. He was in for one play before coaches pulled him off once again.
“It hurts bad,” Wilson said about experiencing cramps. “I know I was hurting myself and my team.”
Wilson was held out early in the fourth quarter. When the Mountaineers were driving deep inside ECU territory with under 10 minutes to play, Wilson was reinserted into the defensive front. His return didn’t last long as the senior went down again after just two plays.
Trainers had to help the defensive end off the field for the third time.
“When I went back out there, I felt my legs cramping up bad,” Wilson said. “I thought I could play through it, but sometimes your mind can’t tell your body what to do. That last time I cramped up, it hit me hard. I knew I was done for the day.”
Wilson was obviously not pleased that he couldn’t be out on the field helping his team. The most frustrating time came with just 90 seconds left on the clock. Trailing by five points, Appalachian State took over at its own 24-yard line with a chance to steal a victory.
“That was very frustrating being on the sideline and not being able to help my team win,” Wilson said. “I was just kicking myself, but you learn from your mistakes.”
The Conference USA Preseason Defensive Player of the Year wasn’t happy that he couldn’t play, but was thrilled that his Pirates opened the season with a win.
“That was very important,” said Wilson, who now has 143 tackles, including 36 tackles-for-loss, and 21.5 sacks in his career. “It gives us some momentum. That gives us confidence and gets us ready for next week (at) West Virginia.”