ECU win is simply ‘Mag’nificent|Magazu’s INT locks up win over Wolfpack

Published 11:31 pm Sunday, October 17, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES,, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE – Safety Damon Magazu wasn’t supposed to start on Saturday.
Pirate Nation is happy he did.
The freshman from Charlotte showed he had all the poise of a senior in his first collegiate start as he jumped in front of N.C. State wide receiver Jarvis Williams in the end zone to steal a Russell Wilson pass in overtime and clinch a 33-27 East Carolina victory over its in-state rival in front of a Pirates’ record 50,410 crazed fans at Dowdly-Ficklen Stadium.
“Damon is a football player. Damon is a C.K. like I am; a coach’s kid,” East Carolina first-year coach Ruffin McNeill said. “Damon’s dad is an offensive line coach for the Carolina Panthers … He is a C.K. I had no hesitation (to play him). He had confidence from Second One.
“Even last week in Southern Miss when safety Bradley (Jacobs) was wrongfully ejected – which was overturned by (Conference USA ) – Mags stepped in and did a great job.”
On Saturday, it was the suspension of ECU’s other starting safety Derek Blacknall after a helmet-to-helmet hit during the same Southern Miss game that left him out of the lineup and allowed Magazu to take his place.
East Carolina (4-2, 3-0) jumped out to a 21-0 first quarter lead, but the Russell Wilson-led Wolfpack got themselves back into the game and took its first lead with less than three minutes to go in regulation when Josh Czajkowski booted a 31-yard field goal to go up 27-24.
As has been the case all season, the Pirates showed their knack for clutch play as quarterback Dominique Davis guided his team on a six-play, 43-yard drive that ended with a game-tying Michael Barbour 31-yard field goal with 1:55 left on the clock to force overtime.
The Pirates struck first in the extra stanza and took a 33-27 lead when Davis scored on a 1-yard plunge on third-and-goal
Upon the Davis score the record crowd burst into celebration, but their jubilation was quickly tempered when Barbour failed to convert on his PAT attempt. The botched extra-point handed star quarterback Wilson and his Wolfpack (5-2, 2-1) one last chance to sink the Pirates.
After three Mustafa Greene runs N.C. State faced third-and-12 from the 17-yard line, forcing a suspect Pirates’ defense to defend against the pass.
The Pirates defense passed the test as Magazu stole Wilson’s pass and kicked off a wild celebration that was highlighted by first-year coach Ruffin McNeill dancing on the field.
“The D-line got a hand in the quarterback’s face and we got a good reroute on the receiver and I just did what I was coached to do,” Magazu said. “(Cornerback) Rahkeem Miller got a good reroute on the receiver and he was trying to fight over the top and I just broke on it with instinct while watching the quarterback the whole time. The reroute really made the play, I was just doing what I was supposed to do.”
For ECU senior wide receiver Dwayne Harris (9 rec, 91 yards) the overtime victory was payback for a 2008 Wolfpack overtime victory that knocked off the then No. 15 Pirates 30-24 at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“It feels great,” Harris said. “It’s a great win at home and now we have 24 hours to enjoy this before we come back tomorrow and it’s back to the drawing board.”
For players like senior linebacker Dustin Lineback, who tied NCSU’s Earl Wolf with a game-high 14 tackles, the moment was pure bliss.
“I don’t know if I have ever heard Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium get loud like that. It swept me off my feet,” Lineback said. “I was in coverage guarding a wide receiver and I looked up and saw it go over my head. It was like slow motion. Then I looked over (at Magazu) and I was like ‘that’s awesome.”
In the first quarter it was ECU’s signal-caller Davis who was awesome has he hit on his first 14 pass attempts of the game which included an 11-yard TD pass to Lance Lewis (8-87, TD) and 4-yard TD pass to Justin Jones (1-3, TD), the latter gave the Pirates a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Davis finished the game setting career-highs in both h pass attempts and completions as he was 37-for-53 for 376 yards, two touchdowns and most importantly no interceptions. Davis’ 376 passing yards is his second-highest total as a Pirate, slightly below the 383 yards he racked up in his ECU debut against Tulsa.
N.C. State answered by out-scoring the Pirates 21-3 in the second quarter as Wilson (26-52, 322, 1 TD, 3 INTs) threw for a touchdown, ran for a touchdown and handed off to running back Mustafa Greene for another to go into halftime trailing 24-21.
After a first half full of fireworks, both teams struggled to move the ball in the third quarter as costly fumbles by East Carolina kept it off the board. The Pirates were poised to take a 31-24 lead as running back Giavani Ruffin was about to cross the goal-line when he lost possession of the ball and watched as it shot through the back of the end zone to give NCSU the possession at the 20.
East Carolina finished the game with four fumbles, giving the team an astounding eight turnovers in its last two games – both of which were victories.
Second-half collapses have been a reoccurring issue this season for ECU against ACC opponents this year. However, the Pirates’ defense stood tall as it allowed only two Czaklowski field goals in final two quarters.
“ The ACC has some great quarterbacks. Russell is by far one of the top ones we have faced,” McNeill said. “We did a good job of mixing up our coverages. The rule of thumb is you blitz a young quarterback and defend a veteran quarterback. He is a veteran, so with a veteran you have to mix coverages. We also had to bring some blitzes which (defensive coordinator) Brian (Mitchell) did. I’m very proud of those guys, the players did a great job of executing.”
The win over the Wolfpack is the first over an ACC opponent in ECU’s last six tries. The last time the Pirates topped an ACC team was when it edged out No. 17 Virginia Tech 27-22 in their 2007 season opener.