09/05/09 — Survival: Pirates avoid Mountaineers' ambush

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Survival: Pirates avoid Mountaineers' ambush

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on September 5, 2009 11:06 PM

GREENVILLE -- The script was written.

Appalachian State nearly altered the final chapter.

Dominated for three quarters, the Mountaineers came to life behind third-string quarterback Travaris Cadet and nearly pulled off a shocking upset of in-state foe East Carolina on Saturday. The effort fell short, however, as the Pirates escaped 29-24 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

"It's always good to get a win and be sitting here at 1-0," said Pirates' head coach Skip Holtz. "But I think you have to look at the two halves separately because it was really two different games."

Ahead 29-7 early in the fourth quarter, the Pirates surrendered a two-yard touchdown to Devon Moore. The score appeared to be little more than a footnote on an eventual Pirate victory, but the Mountaineers were not about to surrender.

After a disastrous possession that ended in a punt, the Pirates found themselves being bowled over by the Mountaineers' ground game once again. Cadet capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge.

Seeing his team's lead cut to 29-21 with seven minutes to play Patrick Pinkney took over the offense and tried to rally the unit. The effort failed when Charles B. Aycock product Cortez Gilbert intercepted Pinkney's second pass of the drive.

The pick sent the ASU fans in attendance into a frenzy.

"I don't know what the difference was, but our offense was about as ugly as it could get in the second half," said Holtz. "I don't think Patrick played his best game and I don't think we made very good adjustments to what (ASU) was doing defensively."

ASU kicker Jason Vitaris drove home a 38-yard field goal with three minutes remaining and pulled the Mountaineers within 29-24.

The Pirates went three-and-out on the next possession and left the visitors with 94 seconds on the clock. In obvious passing situations, Cadet struggled and the Mountaineer drive eventually stalled at midfield with an incomplete fourth-down pass.

"If the adage that says a team improves the most between week one and week two is true, then I think this team has a chance to be pretty good," said Holtz. "But it's obvious by today's performance that we still have a lot of learning to do."

The Pirates seemed to know it all in the first half.

The offense wasted no time jumping on their guests from the Football Championship Subdivision. Brandon Jackson took a handoff on the Pirates' fifth play from scrimmage and raced 39 yards around right end and crossed the goal line. Just three minutes later, Ben Hartman booted a 26-yard field goal to extend the lead to 10-0.

ASU's predicted offensive woes without quarterback Armanti Edwards surfaced in the opening quarter. The Mountaineers were held to minus-11 yards of total offense.

East Carolina finished the game with 320 yards of total offense, including 189 rushing. Dominique Lindsay led the Pirates with 111 yards on 15 totes. Brandon Jackson added 52 yards on five carries.

Pinkney completed 12 passes for 131 yards, but did throw two costly interceptions.

ECU travels to West Virginia next Saturday.