Big stats no, big wins yes|Pirates’ Pinkney steps up when needed

Published 4:56 pm Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sports Writer

GREENVILLE — There are other quarterbacks with stronger arms, faster feet and bigger stats, but when it comes to playing in the “big game,” few rise to the occasion the way Patrick Pinkney has.
Make no mistake about it, the East Carolina quarterback will never be confused with Case Keenum, Chase Clement or some of the other notable Conference USA passers. He won’t end this season with over 4,000 throwing yards and 40-plus touchdown passes, but what he will do is take care of the football and step up his play in the big spot.
In 2008 Pinkney finished second-to-last in the conference in pass efficiency rating (191.1) and in total offense (194.6), but he won three out of the four toughest games on the Pirates schedule.
In last year’s season opener against No. 17 Virginia Tech, Pinkney set an ECU record for accuracy as he was 19 of 23 (82.6 percent) for 211 yards and threw zero interceptions. The Pirates’ QB also led the team on a 73-yard touchdown scoring drive with less than four minutes left in the game before T.J. Lee’s famous blocked punt.
The following week against No. 8 West Virginia, Pinkney was just as good as he tallied 236 yards by completing 22 of 28 passes.
In back-to-back weeks against ranked opponents the ECU signal-caller was 41of 51 with two touchdown passes and zero interceptions.
Pinkney and the Pirates’ offense may frustrate fans from time to time with all the screens and the low passing yard totals, but when it’s time to play in a pressure-packed game, there aren’t many in Conference USA who are better.
“I just try to take my play to another level,” Pinkney said. “I just try to be sharp. Like Coach (Skip Holtz) says, I just try to take it one game and one play at a time.”
In the Conference USA title game against Tulsa Pinkney was up against David Johnson, a notable C-USA gun slinger who had been killing defenses all year. Pinkney didn’t have the greatest day in the world, but what he did do was make sure he didn’t give Tulsa any free possessions.
At the end of the day Pinkney was a pedestrian 10of 24 with 122 passing yards and one TD pass. However, his counterpart was 23of 42 for 195 yards while throwing five picks. ECU won 27-24.
Pinkney wasn’t as sharp during the Pirates’ 28-19 loss to Kentucky in the Liberty Bowl, but he did throw for a season-high 296 yards. He completed 18 of his 36 pass attempts while tossing one TD pass.
Some might frown on Pinkney because he went all of 2008 without throwing a 300-yard game, but it also has to be taken into consideration that he was playing without his top wide receiver, Jamar Bryant, for a majority of the season, and lost Dwayne Harris towards the end.
Pinkney’s best statistical game of his career came against UNC in 2007 when he was 31of 41 for 406 yards, which is the second most passing yards in school history.
The facts are that ECU won the C-USA East division and the Conference USA championship last season, and in the four biggest games of the year Pinkney threw only one INT.
“He really rises to the occasion,” Holtz said. “He’s got a sense of intensity about him and a sense of passion about him.”
The Pirates will look for Pinkney to step up to the plate once again this weekend as they will head to Morgantown to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers at 3:30 p.m.