Harris sparks ECU victory|Kass catches first TD pass, Wilson records a sack

Published 11:57 pm Sunday, October 18, 2009

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Dwayne Harris zigged and zagged through the Rice Owls all day Saturday, scoring three touchdowns in leading the East Carolina Pirates to a 49-13 homecoming victory.
Harris scored twice on catches while finishing with nine receptions (one shy of his career-high) for 128 yards (tying his career-high). The junior also scored on a 92-yard kickoff return, the second time in two weeks that he’s brought back a kick for a score.
“It felt great,” Harris said of his big day at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. “I try to score every time I get the ball. Once the ball is in my hands, I know I can help the team make plays out there and move the ball downfield.”
Harris, who also finished with 136 yards on three kickoff returns (45.3 average), has scored seven touchdowns in the last four games.
“Dwayne Harris is a special player,” ECU coach Skip Holtz said. “We got the ball to him early and often. He’s playing with an awful lot of confidence.”
Harris got involved immediately, returning the opening kickoff 23 yards to the ECU 33-yard line. Getting the ball in the hands of Harris was something the Pirates attempted time and time again, and it usually paid off handsomely.
The junior snagged a 23-yard pass from Patrick Pinkney on the game’s opening possession. A short time later, Harris hauled in a Pinkney screen pass, then used some nifty footwork to find the end zone for a 16-yard score and a quick 6-0 lead.
It was the second TD reception of the season, and the fifth of his career, for Harris.
Harris came up with arguably the play of the game in the second quarter. After an 80-yard touchdown pass pulled Rice within 21-10, Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for his second score of the day, putting the Pirates up 28-10. The electrifying return, where Harris simply used his dazzling speed to out-run his Rice pursuers down the sideline, was the jolt ECU needed.
The touchdown return by Harris was the second of his career, and the second in two weeks. Harris returned a kickoff 77 yards for a score in last week’s 28-21 loss to SMU.
Harris scored his third touchdown of the game with 11 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, spearing a Pinkney pass over the middle for a 7-yard score. The catch by Harris, giving the Pirates a 42-13 lead, was the 126th of his career, moving him ahead of Chris Johnson (125) for sixth on the all-time receptions list.
(Troy Smith is fifth on the chart with 129 catches. Jason Nichols holds the record with 152 receptions.)
“We are finding more ways to get the ball to (Harris),” Holtz said. “He is a great young man and I am really happy with how he has competed as of late.”
Rob Kass has been on the throwing end of 11 touchdowns in his ECU career. The senior was on the receiving end for the first time Saturday.
The 6-4, 250-pound senior, who converted from quarterback to tight end/fullback this season, caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Pinkney with 2:07 to play in the first quarter. It gave the Pirates a 14-3 lead.
“It was a pretty incredible experience,” said Kass, who made just the second reception overall of his career.
His first reception was a 13-yard gain on Sept. 26, coming in a 19-14 win over UCF.
On the scoring play, Kass faked a block, then found an opening near the back of the end zone. Pinkney hit Kass between the numbers for the score.
“It was exciting,” Kass said. “I was standing in the back of the end zone all alone. I was hoping and praying that Pat saw me, and he did and made a great throw.”
Kass also has two rushing touchdowns in his career.
C.J. Wilson led the Pirates with 10.5 sacks last year. The senior defensive end, the Conference USA Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, had been limited to 1.5 sacks this season, both coming in a 19-14 win over UCF on Sept. 26.
After being held relatively in check the last two games, where Wilson has been facing a steady stream of double teams, Wilson broke through and notched a sack in the fourth quarter Saturday.
The 6-4, 278-pound defensive end dropped Rice quarterback Nick Fanuzzi for a 5-yard loss. Wilson also forced Fanuzzi to fumble, the second fumble that Wilson forced on the day.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” said Wilson, who also finished with seven tackles, three quarterback hurries and two tackles-for-loss.
“It was a great call by the coaches. The quarterback tried to run and I just happened to be there.”
Wilson, a former star at Northside High School, has 34 tackles, including 5.5 tackles-for-loss (24 yards), 2.5 sacks (16 yards in loss), seven quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery this season.
In his career, Wilson has 24 sacks, 40.5 tackles-for-loss, 28 quarterback hurries and 169 tackles.