Pirates' 'D' key to victory|East Carolina on top of C-USA East

Published 9:21 pm Sunday, October 4, 2009

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
Once again another East Carolina victory was put in jeopardy by its offense, and once again it was bailed out by its defense as ECU held off Marshall to win its Conference USA clash, 21-17, on Saturday at John C. Edwards Stadium.
With the win, the Pirates (3-2, 2-0) claimed sole possession of first place in the C-USA East division, thanks to a UAB upset over Southern Miss Thursday night.
Just like East Carolina’s nail-biting 19-14 win over UCF last weekend, the Pirates snuffed out a potential last-minute rally with a game-clinching interception.
While Van Eskridge’s pick sealed the deal against the Knights last Saturday, this weekend it was linebacker Jeremy Chambliss’ turn to handle the dagger as he plucked off a pass from Marshall quarterback Brian Anderson with under a minute left in the game.
Chambliss, who finished with 10 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery to go along with his interception, was just one of the many Pirates defenders to come up big against the Thundering Herd (3-2, 1-1).
Protecting a 21-17 lead, the ECU defense provided a critical stop on a fourth-and-1, stuffing Anderson on a sneak attempt, and had forced Marshall to turn the ball over on downs with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter at the Pirates’ 44-yard line.
Marshall coach Mark Snyder had challenged the spot of the ball, but lost the challenge and a timeout.
With the Herd holding only two timeouts, all ECU had to do was get a first down to secure the win. After two running plays, Marshall had burned both its timeouts, as ECU was facing third-and-seven.
The Pirates ran Dwayne Harris out of the wildcat, but the elusive receiver could not pick up the first down, and made a major mistake by running out of bounds. The gaff stopped the clock, and after a Matt Dodge punt, handed the Herd the ball with 1:39 left in the game.
Fortunately, Dodge’s punt pushed Marshall all the way back to its own 7-yard line. A few plays later Chambliss pulled down an Anderson pass.
For the second week in a row, the ECU defense was very aggressive and got pressure on the opposing quarterback for a majority of the game.
All-American Candidate, tight end Cody Slate was kept relatively in check as he had nine catches for 88 yards.
Middle linebacker Nick Johnson led the Pirates with 16 tackles, as the unit held Anderson to 16 of 32 passing for a mere 127 yards, while producing two picks. The Herd, led by running back Darius Marshall, did run the ball effectively for a total of 179 rushing yards, but its attack was one dimensional.
Marshall, who scored two touchdowns, led all rushers by gaining 147 yards on 28 attempts.
The Pirates didn’t do much better on offense, but did manage to eclipse the century mark in rushing for the second week in a row by tallying 155 yards
The ECU offense mustered only 286 yards of total yardage. Patrick Pinkney and his wideouts looked like it had a few communication issues during the game. Pinkey completed the contest hitting on 14 of 23 passes for 131 passing yards. The Pirates QB also provided a key 30-yard TD run late in the second half to help ECU take a 14-7 lead.
Running back Dominique Lindsay returned from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss two games, and provided a big spark as he carried the ball 18 times for 76 yards and a touchdown.
Lindsay was instrumental in helping ECU get on the board early as the speedy back was a large part of the Pirates’ 80-yard scoring drive that ended with fellow back Brandon Jackson plunging into the end zone from one yard out, giving the Pirates a 7-0 lead after their first drive of the game.
Marshall answered on its ensuing possession as it marched down field behind the running of Marshall, who entered the game as the NCAA leader in all-purpose yards with 266 per game.
The running back tied the game at 7 when he pushed his way into the end zone from two yards out with 13:36 remaining in the second quarter.
After forcing a Marshall punt, ECU took possession at its own 32-yard line and pieced together a 10-play, 68 yard drive that was highlighted by a Harris 16-yard run out of the wildcat. Harris also made a key third-down reception, which eventually set up Lindsay for a 3-yard run with :26 left in the half to give the Pirates a 14-7 lead heading into halftime.
The Pirates offense looked terrible a the start of the third quarter as Pinkney threw an interception on the first play of the half. The pick translated into a 28-yard field goal by Craig Ratanamorn to cut ECU’s lead to 14-10.
East Carolina went three-and-out on its next possession, which led to another Marshall scoring drive. This time, the Herd did not settle for a field goal, and instead ran the ball down field to complete an eight play, 64-yard drive that ended with a Darius Marshall 20-yard run.
The score gave Marshall momentum and a 17-14 lead.
Using a solid mix of running and passing, the Pirates drove 68 yards to reclaim the lead with :25 left in the half.
Twice, Pinkney hooked up with Harris for third-down catches to keep the drive alive. The first one was the most impressive, as Harris caught a pass while falling down.
The drive hit a rut when Harris was called for a 15-yard penalty for chop blocking, a move that pushed ECU back from the Marshall 15 all the way to the 30-yard line.
However, on the next play Pinkney faked a wide receiver screen, then dashed 30-yards for a touchdown and a 21-17 lead.
Buried Treasure:
Defensive end C.J. Wilson made his 35th career start for the Pirates … WR Jamar Bryant missed the game due to a concussion sustained at practice earlier in the week …OL Terrence Campbell hurt his elbow in second quarter and did not return. … True freshman DT Michael Brooks was impressive and had two tackles, one for a loss. … CBS College Sports reported during the game that running back Norman Whitley did not make the trip to West Virginia for the game.