10/08/07 — Plenty of good and bad for Pirates

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Plenty of good and bad for Pirates

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on October 8, 2007 1:48 PM

GREENVILLE — In the first month or so of the season there's been plenty of high's and low's for East Carolina.

Saturday night's 52-38 comeback win over Central Florida was no different.

The Pirates fell behind immediately after the Knights' Curtis Francis took the opening kickoff 93-yards for a touchdown.

UCF running back Kevin Smith, who entered the game as the nation's leading rusher, was busy slicing through the Pirates defense for 147 yards.

Central Florida took a 28-17 lead into halftime, before the Pirates forced six second-half turnovers, the most since ECU played Memphis on Oct. 6, 2006. ECU has at least two takeaways in five of its last six games.

Meanwhile, the Pirates erupted for 34 second-half points, while tailback Chris Johnson set a new school record for all-purpose yards with 372. Johnson scored a pair of rushing touchdowns, had a touchdown reception and he also ran back a kickoff. His 372 all-purpose yards broke the mark of 356 set by Scott Harley against North Carolina State on Nov. 30, 1996.

The 52 points are the most for East Carolina since the Pirates beat Houston in three overtimes, 54-48, on Nov. 9, 2002.

"There were a couple big plays there in the third quarter and I thought the defense came out and did a great job creating some turnovers and the offense had some big plays," ECU head coach Skip Holtz said. "The coaching staff did a great job on both sides of the ball and the players went out and we really challenged them at halftime. I was excited to see that second half start in the third quarter after we started the game that way, it kind of evens things out."

With the win, the Pirates (3-3, 2-1 C- USA ) took over sole possession of first place in the Conference USA Eastern Division.

However, the first six games of the season haven't all been memorable for the Pirates. There was the season opening 17-7 loss to a Virginia Tech team that was No. 9 in the nation at the time, on an emotional day in Blacksburg.

ECU lost a heartbreaking 28-21 ballgame at home to rival Southern Miss, and got routed 48-7 at West Virginia.

The Pirates also have a victory over in-state rival North Carolina on a last-second field goal, and have now rattled off back-to-back conference wins.

Win or lose, Johnson believes this ball club has matured and is better for having been through those battles.

"It's been real hard because we've been playing a lot of real hard teams and we were 1-3," Johnson said. "I guess some teams were looking at us different because we didn't have a good record. But, we've played two top-10 teams and now teams see we're a real good competitor and we can compete in this league."

Quarterback Rob Kass has been through his own tough times this season, missing the first part of the season after being suspended following a DUI. Kass finished Saturday night's contest 12-of-23 with 201 yards and three touchdowns.

He's thrown four TD's and no interceptions in the last two games.

"It's been a road of ups and downs," Kass said. "You're going to be hit with adversity any time in your life. It's not a matter of are you down? But, it's a matter of getting back up. Adversity can split you apart or bring you closer together, and I really feel like adversity brought us closer together as a team."

For now, the Pirates continue to embrace their earlier pains and use them as fuel for their journey.