West Virginia 35, ECU 20

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 12, 2009

By John Raby
Associated PressMORGANTOWN, W.Va. ó Jarrett Brown is fitting in just fine with West Virginia’s retooled offense.
Brown threw for a career-high 334 yards and four touchdowns as West Virginia paid back East Carolina with a 35-20 victory Saturday.
Brown, at ease in his second start since taking over for the departed Pat White, completed nine straight passes at one point against a veteran defense and finished 24 of 31. He also ran 10 times for 73 yards.
West Virginia (2-0) sacked Patrick Pinkney four times and held East Carolina (1-1) scoreless in the second half. The Mountaineers used last year’s 24-3 loss at East Carolina as motivation and improved to 13-0 at home against the Pirates.
“Last year they just came out and punched us in the mouth,” Brown said. “We changed a few things, and it worked out for the best. It’s a momentum boost for me and my team.”
Brown wasn’t flawless, but his mistakes weren’t costly.
He threw a third-quarter interception deep in East Carolina territory, and he fumbled the ball away to former Salisbury High School standout Scotty Robinson at the ECU 19 early in the fourth quarter.
In the end, Brown had one new fan in Holtz.
“He played special today, and I told him that after the game,” ECU coach Skip Holtz said. “I made a point to go and grab him. I told him I was impressed with the way he handled himself today.”
East Carolina is still looking for Pinkney to return to his form from last year, when he led the Pirates to a nine-win season that also included a victory over Virginia Tech.
Pinkney followed up a poor performance against Appalachian State a week ago by going 16 of 39 for 175 yards with one TD toss and an interception. East Carolina was limited to 237 yards of offense.
“I don’t know what’s wrong right now,” Holtz said. “I’ll have to sit down and talk with Patrick. We’re not calling different plays. We throw a deep ball and overthrow it. We jump offsides, then he throws a slant route behind the guy. We’re going to try and get it corrected.”
Behind Brown, West Virginia has balance, moving away somewhat from the run-based spread attack made popular by former coach Rich Rodriguez.
Brown was especially impressive with the deep ball. Two TD tosses went for more than 45 yards, and he had a 28-yard pass for a first down to Jock Sanders.
Brown capped his day by hitting freshman Tavon Austin with a 58-yard TD toss early in the third quarter to put West Virginia ahead 28-20. East Carolina had a chance to close the gap in the fourth but turned the ball over on downs at the West Virginia 25.
Noel Devine led West Virginia with 80 yards rushing, including a 4-yard TD run midway through the fourth.
All of East Carolina’s points came with help from West Virginia mistakes. The Mountaineers committed five penalties on their first two possessions, giving the Pirates great field position early, and Sanders and teammate Brandon Hogan mishandled second-quarter punts.
East Carolina’s first-half scoring drives went 31, 26, 0 and 18 yards ó the shortest and longest of which went for field goals.
Without any help, East Carolina struggled. Pinkney threw passes behind his receivers and took little advantage of a West Virginia defense that lost linemen Julian Miller and Scooter Berry as well as linebacker Reed Williams with first-half injuries.
Pinkney threw six straight incompletions at one point, but Brown was sharp. Alric Arnett caught first-half scoring tosses of 46 and 11 yards from Brown, and the Mountaineers led 21-20 at halftime.