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Pirates’ Pinkney gets groove back during win streak

By Aaron Beard
Associated PressGREENVILLE ó Patrick Pinkney looked completely at ease leading East Carolina’s offense in its surprising start to the season.
After a bumpy midseason stretch, the quarterback is starting to look comfortable again.
Pinkney is coming off a season-high passing performance in last weekend’s overtime win against Marshall, and the victory kept the Pirates in position to reach the Conference USA championship game.
Now Pinkney knows his team has a chance for the third straight year to reach the title game and that he has to keep playing like he did earlier this year if East Carolina wants to finally get there.
“The season is all about starting fast and finishing strong,” the senior said, “and now we’re worried about finishing strong.”
The Pirates (6-3, 4-1 C-USA) were the talk of college football when they opened the year with wins against Virginia Tech and West Virginia. Pinkney threw for 200 yards and a score in each game.
But starting with his fumble in overtime that led to the loss at N.C. State in Week 4, Pinkney went through a tough stretch in which he battled ankle injuries that limited his mobility and robbed him of the free-moving confidence in his game.
Then, after a three-game losing streak, Pinkney split time with backup Rob Kass as he tried to find his rhythm again.
The Pirates now have a three-game winning streak, and Pinkney is coming off a 287-yard passing day in the overtime win against Marshall. East Carolina controls its own destiny heading into Saturday’s game at Southern Mississippi.
“He is playing with more confidence right now,” East Carolina coach Skip Holtz said. “He’s throwing the ball and making the reads as he did early in the season. He’s the old Patrick. He’s playing with some passion, he’s got energy and that enthusiasm. That smile is on his face on the field.”
Pinkney has seen the highs and lows this year. He earned some national player-of-the-week honors after leading the Pirates past the Mountaineers. He also heard criticism after his fumble against the Wolfpack and his shaky performance against Houston.
“With the start of the season and the quality of opponents we’ve played week in and week out, there was no room to breathe,” offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said. “I think he got a little bit mentally worn down. The whole team went through that, but as a quarterback, you’re out front even more.”
That’s why Pinkney isn’t overly excited about his play against Marshall and the fact that he’s feeling pain-free after suffering a bone bruise in one ankle and a sprain in the other.
“When we’d do play-action and stuff, I couldn’t really get around the corner because I couldn’t put that much pressure (on the ankles),” Pinkney said.
“Now the past couple of weeks, I’ve been able to do that, and that helped me with my game.”

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