Pirates storm Mountaineers
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on September 7, 2008 11:33 AM
GREENVILLE -- Hurricane Hanna may have already left eastern North Carolina but West Virginia ran into a different type of storm on Saturday afternoon.
East Carolina head coach Skip Holtz almost floated to the sidelines following the Pirate's 24-3 upset victory over the No. 8 Mountaineers.
Running through a crowd of celebrating players, Holtz jumped from midfield to the Pirate bench in what seemed like two giant leaps.
The excitement certainly fit the atmosphere at a sold-out Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, as the Pirates knocked off their second ranked opponent in as many weeks, and third consecutive dating back to last season's Hawai'i Bowl victory over Boise State.
"I am so honored to coach this team...they are a great group of young men," Holtz said after the upset. "We talked about building a big time football atmosphere, and we have done that, and these guys deserve it."
Beginning with the game's opening possession, the Pirates defense set the tone.
East Carolina held the normally-potent Mountaineer offense to just 251 total yards, and an impressive 72 yards through the air.
"That was a phenomenal job by our defense," Holtz said. "All of our defensive coaches had a great plan... we knew we weren't going to win the game with some new scheme."
Holtz also gave credit to the defense for winning the turnover battle. A pair of costly West Virginia fumbles in the first half, halted drives in Pirate territory.
"That was huge," Holtz said. "We got the second fumble and put points on the board, and that really changed the momentum."
The East Carolina offense was not flashy, but the unit did control the clock with the running game. The group also won the field position battle and avoided negative plays.
Tailback Jon Williams opened the scoring for the Pirates with a 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. A 42-yard Ben Ryan field goal made the score 10-0 midway through the second.
After a West Virginia field goal, ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney capped the first half scoring with a 13-yard pass to Alex Taylor.
Pinkney finished 22-28 passing, with one score and zero interceptions.
"Patrick is really playing well right now," Holtz said. "He is playing within himself, and he is showing maturity during the game."
As a unit, the ECU offense racked up 386 total yards. Williams led Pirates rushers with 82 yards on 17 carries.
Boasting a 2-0 record with two marquee wins, will certainly bring added attention to the Pirate program as they head into next week's Conference USA opener at Tulane. A fact that Holtz hopes will not compromise the team's focus.
"We have to stay focused on going 1-0 each week," said Holtz. "We can't afford to be looking ahead or behind."
After beating opponents from BCS conferences two weeks in a row, the Pirates will likely find themselves in the national rankings next week for the first time since 1999. A statistic that Holtz admitted he does not keep track of.
"I don't even care," Holtz said. "The minute we start worrying about where we are in the polls, or who is ahead of, or behind us, that's when we will lose our focus."
Saturday night's win is the third time the Pirates have beaten West Virginia in the team's 20 game history. It also marks the first time a CUSA team has won consecutive games over ranked opponents since 2000.
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