College Football: ECU must regroup after loss to Virginia
GREENVILLE ó East Carolina’s season-opening upsets and top-15 ranking seem to have happened a lifetime ago.
Skip Holtz now faces an even tougher job than knocking off a pair of nationally ranked teams: Halting a surprising three-game losing streak and preventing a once-promising season from going awry.
“I don’t want to call what we’re in a slump because we’ve lost to three pretty good football teams,” Holtz said. “We’ve been in them but we haven’t been able to close the door.”
Holtz said returning to conference play where the Pirates still have a chance to win the East Division of Conference USA is a big motivation.
“The attitude of this football team is extremely positive,” Holtz said. “I think they’re very frustrated and I think the resolve to get it straight is extremely strong. They feel like they’re better than their record is right now.”
East Carolina (3-3, 1-1 C-USA) will host Memphis (3-4, 1-2) in what could be another high-scoring game. The Pirates outlasted Memphis 56-40 a year ago behind the running of Chris Johnson, who rushed for 301 yards and four touchdowns.
But Johnson is now in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, where he is among the league’s rushing leaders.
Memphis had 416 yards passing against East Carolina last year and the Tigers have back their leading receivers, including 6-foot-8 Carlos Singleton, who caught a pair of touchdowns against the Pirates.
East Carolina will have to defend Memphis with a patchwork secondary because cornerback Jerek Hewitt is doubtful with a shoulder injury and cornerback Dekota Marshall will be slowed by his shoulder injury.
“They scored 40 points on us last year, and it’s hard to believe but I think they’re a better receiving corps than they were a year ago,” Holtz said. “They’ve made some additions and they’ve got guys back who were all-conference last year. They’re big. They’re tall and they’re athletic. We’re going to be playing sophomores and freshmen against them and that’s not the way you want to play it.”
Holtz said he would continue tinkering with his lineup, including at quarterback, where backup Rob Kass will probably see more playing time.
Starter Patrick Pinkney has cooled off considerably since the first three games of the season when he completed 63 of 83 passes for 707 yards. In the last three games, Pinkney has gone 41 of 80 for 506 yards.
“Patrick Pinkney has really played well and I want to be loyal to Patrick and what he has done for this team,” Holtz said. “But at the same time, if we’re turning the ball over and not following the plan, we’ve got look at our other options. It’s hard to look Rob in the eye and tell him he doesn’t deserve an opportunity. I don’t know what the rotation will be, but both quarterbacks will definitely play.”
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