ECU turns the page on App State|Pirates prepare for rematch with West Virginia

Published 4:27 pm Tuesday, September 8, 2009

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — After escaping with a 29-24 win over FCS Appalachian State Saturday in its season opener, East Carolina knows it must step up its effort this week if it wants improve its record to 2-0.
The Pirates held on to beat App State on the strength of an explosive first half in which they dominated both sides of the ball, but almost lost it when it got the tables turned on them over the next two quarters.
ECU can not afford a lapse in production this Saturday as it will need a full four-quarter effort when it travels to Morgantown to take on West Virginia (1-0) at 3:30 p.m.
On Monday during his weekly press conference, Pirates’ coach Skip Holtz said he was happy to be 1-0 and that the narrow victory has heightened his teams focus.
“I really like the attitude of where this team is right now,” Holtz said. “I really feel good about where they are. They were a little bit down after the game and yesterday because they realized there is a lot of things we can do better and a lot of things we can improve on. That’s where you want a football team, so they are always eager to keep that humble and hungry attitude.”
East Carolina will need that approach as it takes on one of the Big East’s most successful teams over the last few years in the Mountaineers.
There is no doubt that WVU hasn’t forgotten its last meeting with the Pirates, a 24-3 statement-making victory by ECU, and will look to exact revenge this Saturday in Morgantown where it is 12-0 all-time versus the Pirates.
Holtz said that his team is very aware that the cleat is on the other foot heading into the rematch.
“You have to try and continually educate your players. We are constantly talking about remembering the mindset when we were the hunter and we went to North Carolina, and we went to Virginia Tech and we played West Virginia; because that’s the mindset they’re going to come with.”
Aside from the mindset, another big difference from last year will be that West Virginia will be playing without star quarterback Pat White. The only QB to win four college bowl games has been drafted by the Miami Dolphins and was replaced by senior Jarrett Brown.
Brown led the Mountaineers to a not-so-convincing 33-20 win over FCS Liberty, in which they didn’t seal the deal until the fourth quarter.
Though WVU didn’t blow away Liberty, Brown was pretty solid as was 19-26 for 243 yards, while throwing no picks and no TD passes.
“I was pretty impressed with what they did this Saturday,” Holtz said of the Mountaineers. “They had no turnovers as an offense, they had 438 yards of offense, they were 5-5 in the redzone and they only punted two times the entire day. … I was really impressed with Brown and the way he handled himself at quarterback.”
Another player who left a good impression was last season’s all-Big East second team running back Noel Devine. The junior accumulated 120 yards and one TD on 17 carries and will no doubt be a major factor Saturday.
Another key aspect to the game is how the Pirates will handle West Virginia’s 3-5-3 defense which is led by tackle Scooter Berry and linebacker Reed Williams.
The scheme is non-traditional, and Holtz said that it is difficult to prepare for.
“You only have a week to get ready and it’s hard to simulate the speed and it’s hard to simulate the way they play it,” Holtz said. “They are not a big shoot the gap, stunt with their front people team. They are more of a two-gap, traditionally take you on in the middle, hold you out, then shed the block and go to the ball team. It’s going to be hard to simulate their defense with our scout team because we can’t teach them something that (West Virginia) has been doing for a long time.”
Preparing for the Mountaineers’ offense will be a bit easier considering that East Carolina just played ASU, a team that runs a similar spread-option offense.
Holtz said that he didn’t anticipate another problem with cramping this weekend and that the team has made some minor adjustments to prevent it.
The Pirates’ secondary may be at a disadvantage this week as the team has listed starting safety Levin Neal (ankle) as doubtful along with backup cornerback Emmanuel Davis (shoulder).
Darek Blacknell will start in place of Neal, while Darryl Reynolds moved up on the depth chart to take Davis’ spot.