Harris Hammers Pirates

On a beautiful autumn evening the 10th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers looked to prove themselves worthy of their lofty preseason ranking by sinking the upstart East Carolina Pirates in front of a crowd of nearly 60,000 fans. The proof came on the first play of the season, and the hits just kept on coming as the WVU crushed ECU 56-23 to open the season.

Kay Jay Harris rushed for a Mountaineer and Big East record 337 yards, and added four touchdowns against the outclassed Pirates. WVU piled up 478 yards on the ground in moving out to a 49-9 lead in the third quarter before easing off the hammer during a fourth quarter dotted with substitutions.

The fireworks started the first time a Mountaineer touched the ball as Adam Jones returned the opening kick to the 38-yard line. Pac Man was only one missed tackle from reaching paydirt, but his return set WVU up nicely. On the first play from scrimmage Rasheed Marshall hit a streaking Brandon Myles for a 51-yard gain down to the ECU 11 yard line that put them on the doorstep, and after a fourth down conversion, sophomore Jason Colson scored WVU's first touchdown of the season.

East Carolina answered quickly with a six play 62-yard drive that ended in a Cam Broadwell 20-yard field goal, making the score 7-3 with 8:17 to go in the fist quarter.

After exchanging punts the Mountaineers reached the end zone for the second time on a two-yard run by Harris. The key play of the second scoring drive was a forty-yard tote by Harris. The score made in 14-3 with 4:24 remaining in the first quarter.

The first quarter ended with WVU out gaining the Pirates 123-63 in total yards. Harris had 55 yards on 5 attempts while Marshall was 3-5 for 63 yards.

The second quarter was even better for the Mountaineers, and resulted in a few broken records for the Mountaineers and most notably, Harris.

The quarter started slowly as the two teams traded punts, which resulted in WVU sitting at their own 1-yard line with 10:55 to go in the half. After a couple of solid runs by Harris, which advanced the ball to the WVU 20-yard line Marshall made his first mistake of the season by throwing an interception while rolling out to his left. The ball floated over the outstretched arms of Brandon Myles and was picked off by ECU cornerback, Don Whitehead.

The mistake did not cost the Blue and Gold, as the defense stuffed the Pirates on 4th and 3 and took over possession on their own 35-yard line. The stop seemed to spark the Mountaineers as they began a scoring spree that resulted in four touchdowns on their next four possessions. With 8:38 remaining in the first half WVU moved the ball down to the ECU 17-yard line after a 48-yard run by Harris. The drive ended on a 15-yard touchdown run by Jason Colson, his second of the day. The drive took 46 seconds and three plays, and made the score 21-3.

After another Ryan Dougherty punt, the Mountaineer offense was on the run again. With Harris carrying much of the load, WVU moved down the field in six plays, covering 46 yards in 2:29. Harris tallied 38 of the 46 yards including a five-yard touchdown tote, which made the score 28-3 with 4:46 remaining in the half.

On ECU's next possession the Pirates were again unable to move the ball with any consistency and were forced to punt to Jones. Jones proceeded to electrify the crowd again, catching the ball on the run and embarking on a 76-yard return for a touchdown. This was Jones' first career punt returned for a score, and it gave WVU a 35-3 lead.

The Pirates started their ensuing drive on their own 31-yard after a fair catch by Shawn Levesque. ECU quarterback James Pinkney and the Pirate offense showed some life by completing a pass to Edwin Rios for a first down, but the excitement on the ECU sideline was soon quieted by an interception by Ernest Hunter to give the Blue and Gold the ball at midfield.

Harris and the Mountaineer turned the Pinkney mistake into point in just one play as Harris dashed 51 yards for his fourth touchdown on the evening. The scoring drive took 50 seconds and gave WVU a 42-3 lead with 2:24 to go in the half.

East Carolina ended the first half with a quick strike to Edwin Rios from Pinkney and although the score was a bit of salve for the wounded Pirates, ECU still trailed by 33 after missing the extra point.

Harris ended the first half with 223 yards rushing, setting a record that had stood since 1922. Harris also broke Garrett Ford Sr.'s one quarter record, set against Pitt with 167 yards in the second quarter.

The third quarter did not produce the scoring frenzy put on in the second quarter but it did have a flash of brilliance from Marshall and Chris Henry.

After receiving the second half kickoff the Mountaineer offense moved to the WVU 40-yard line before Marshall hit Henry on a post pattern for a 60-yard touchdown. The play brought back vivid memories of Major Harris passes to Reggie Rembert during the 1988 season. Henry's jaunt made it 49-9, which would hold up throughout the remainder of the third quarter.

The East Carolina's "Fun-N-Gun" offense started to heat up at the beginning of the fourth quarter. With a number of Mountaineer second and third teamers on the field, converted five straight pass completions by Pinkney, the last being to wideout Edwin Rios for the Pirates' second touchdown on the game.

The excitement felt by head coach John Thompson's Pirates was short lived as the Mountaineer took only one play to put seven more points on the board. Needing just 30 yards to break Kerry Marbury's record of 291 rushing yards in a game, Harris put the finishing touches on his record breaking performance by breaking off a 76-yard run for WVU's final score with 9:35 left to play.

"My offensive line did a hell of a job. (The) first person I ever saw was the safety. (The) offensive line did exactly what they're supposed to do. Credit the offensive line, the receivers and tight ends. They had a lot of movement. They're definitely living up to the hype," a contented Harris said after the game. "I saw the goalposts on almost every run." Harris averaged 13.5 yards per career on the way to his monster evening.

ECU put up a late score against the WVU subs to cut the final margin to 56-23, but that didn't lessen the domination that the Mountaineers held for the majority of the evening. ECU had just eight yards rushing on 12 carries at the half, and despite holding the ball for 15:28 seconds of the opening stanza, only managed 155 yards of offense.

WVU (1-0) must next tune to the Weather Channel, as they are scheduled to travel to Orlando to take on Central Florida in another 6:00 p.m. start next Saturday. East Carolina (0-1) hosts Wake Forest.

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