09/28/08 — Cougars torch ECU defense

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Cougars torch ECU defense

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on September 28, 2008 12:13 AM

GREENVILLE -- East Carolina University's dream season has quickly taken an unpleasant turn.

After a 3-0 start, the No. 23 Pirates lost for the second consecutive week, as they dropped a 41-24 decision to Conference USA opponent Houston at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday.

"I want to applaud Houston for the effort they showed," Pirates head coach Skip Holtz said. "I think they have a very good team, and today the executed very well."

The Cougars tallied 621 yards of total offense and won the time of possession battle by nearly eight minutes.

"We couldn't get off the field as a defense," said Holtz. "Unless we forced a turnover, they were able to do whatever they wanted on offense."

After falling behind 21-10 at halftime, the Pirates (3-2, 0-1 Conference USA) decided to make a switch at quarterback, and removed starter Patrick Pinkney in favor of experienced signal caller Rob Kass.

Kass led a scoring drive midway through the third quarter that drew the Pirates within one possession at 21-17, but that would be as close as East Carolina would get.

On the ensuing possession, the Cougars (2-3, 1-0 Conference USA) drove 64 yards and converted on a 24-yard field goal by Ben Bell.

Houston never looked back.

Quarterback Case Keenum launched an 84-yard scoring strike to Kierrie Johnson just 44 seconds into the fourth quarter and sealed the win for Houston.

"On defense we tried to play more nickel, and more dime," Holtz said. "With the depth issues we have at linebacker we felt like that was the way to go... Maybe it wasn't."

Keenum fished 36-44 passing for 399 yards and three touchdowns.

Kass and Pinkney combined to go 15-28 for 149 yards and one score.

"I don't think this was Rob's fault, and I don't think it was Patrick's fault," Holtz said. "This loss was a team effort, across the board."

Following two tough losses, the Pirates are welcoming their upcoming bye week.

"We have to go back to the drawing board, back to fundamentals and back to basics," said Holtz. "The seniors will keep this team together... and the open date is definitely coming at a great time."

East Carolina fell to 3-2 on the season, and 1-1 in Conference USA.

"It definitely has to be a 1-0 mentality every week from now on," Holtz said. "If you aren't playing at your emotional peak, anybody in this league can beat anybody."

The Pirates will travel to the University of Virginia on Oct. 11. before jumping back into CUSA action at home against Memphis on Oct. 18.