Pirates Plundered by Brown

A shaky start may have given many of the 59,216 fans in attendance at Milan Puskar Stadium flashbacks to week two of the 2008 season, but the strong arm of WVU's fifth-year senior quarterback and a solid defensive performance in the final three quarters proved to be more than enough in the home team's 35-20 win on Saturday.

The final score didn't truly indicate how strong West Virginia's performance was in its second game of the season. Its defense allowed only two East Carolina drives of more than 40 yards – and neither of those resulted in points for the Pirates.

The Mountaineers out-gained head coach Skip Holtz's squad 509-237 in total yardage.

That sort of performance helped Bill Stewart and company exorcise the demons that had haunted them since the Pirates dominated WVU 24-3 a season ago in Greenville, N.C.

"We had been living with something for 365 days," Stewart said. "It was not pleasant. I don't like getting whipped. I never liked it as a kid. We're so lucky we had a chance to get back with them and play them again, but it wasn't about revenge."

In a sign that its offense continues to evolve under second-year head coach Bill Stewart and offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen, 334 of those yards came from passes by fifth-year senior quarterback Jarrett Brown.

That statistic represented a career-high for Brown, who said he had never thrown for more in his life than his previous college record of 244 yards when he started for an injured Pat White against Rutgers in 2006. He bettered that mark by nearly 100 yards in only his fourth career start, and in doing so passed for more than White ever did in his four-year tenure as the WVU starter.

In fact, the last time any Mountaineer quarterback threw for more yards than Brown did against the Pirates was a 346-yard performance by Marc Bulger against Miami in 1999.

"He stands tall in the pocket," said Holtz of Brown. "He threw the ball well today, and his receivers went and got the ball. I thought he threw the deep ball extremely well today."

Indeed, much of the Mountaineers' yardage came in big chunks through the air. Brown had touchdown passes of 46 and 58 yards (to Alric Arnett and Tavon Austin, respectively) and also had a 55-yard toss to Bradley Starks in the first half.

He also moved effectively on the ground, tallying 73 yards rushing on 10 attempts – many of which came on broken plays in which the quarterback simply outmaneuvered ECU defenders that seemed to be in position to make plays.

"We thought we had him a few times, but couldn't finish the tackles," Holtz said. "That's what he does. He is a big, athletic quarterback. I think he has the full package. He can run. I was really impressed with him today."

In the process, Brown had 407 yards of total offense, becoming the first West Virginia player to eclipse the 400-yard mark since White did so against Pittsburgh in 2006.

His long scoring pass to Austin early in the third quarter extended his team's lead to 28-20. A 35-yard punt return by Jock Sanders mid-way through the fourth period gave Brown and the offense a short field, and Noel Devine ran in from four yards out to put the game out of reach and set the final margin.

The Mountaineer defense pitched a shutout in the second half and harassed ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney into a tough day. The sixth-year senior was only 16-of-39 passing for 175 yards. He had one touchdown throw, but was sacked four times and threw a late interception.

Of the Pirates' 20 points, 10 came against a short field when Sanders and Brandon Hogan each coughed up the ball on punts that resulted after the defense had forced its opposition into three-and-outs. Those scoring "drives" only covered a total of 19 yards in eight plays.

It was rough going for most of the day for the ECU offense. Beyond Pinkney's struggles, the Pirates never managed to get a ground attack going either, as they managed only 2.3 yards per rush on their 27 carries (a total of 62 net rushing yards).

It wasn't always easy for WVU, however. Stewart's squad dug itself an early 10-point hole and led by only a single point at halftime.

In a sign of things to come, a long kick return by Devine on the game's opening play was called back due to a block in the back penalty (one of the Mountaineers' 11 flags on the day, which cost them 104 yards). The yardage marked off left WVU with the ball at their own 8-yard line to start play, and the offense only headed in reverse from there.

A false start penalty on Don Barclay before the first snap moved the offense back to its own 4-yard line. After a one-yard rush by Devine, a rare offensive encroachment penalty was called on Austin to move the ball back to the 3.

A loss of a yard on a Devine rush and an incomplete pass from Brown left little room for punter Scott Kozlowski to work with, and the Pirates ended up with the ball on their own 49-yard line to start their first possession.

A pass from Pinkney to tight end Kevin Gidrey for 20 yards moved the ball to West Virginia's 29-yard line, but the ECU drive stalled when Brandon Jackson was held to a single yard on a third-and-2 play. The Pirates settled for a 37-yard field goal from Ben Hartman to take a 3-0 lead.

After an offensive pass interference penalty on Starks reversed a long completion to Sanders, the ensuing WVU drive stalled. A 38-yard punt return by Travis Simmons combined with an unnecessary roughness flag on Ovid Goulbourne gave the Pirates the ball at the Mountaineers' 26-yard line.

Holtz's squad quickly took advantage, converting on two third-and-short situations before Dominique Lindsay ran in from two yards out to give his team a 10-0 lead with 2:53 left in the opening quarter.

West Virginia's offense finally awoke at that point. Brown ran for nine yards on a key third-and-short play, avoiding multiple ECU defenders on a pass rush before twisting his way down the sidelines. Three plays later, he found an open Arnett for a 46-yard scoring strike to draw within 10-7.

An 11 play, 61-yard East Carolina drive on the ensuing possession went for naught, as Jonathan Williams was stuffed by Brandon Hogan and Pat Lazear on a third-and-two from the Mountaineers' 6-yard line. Hartman then missed a 23-yard field goal wide to the left.

WVU appeared to take momentum when it grabbed a 14-10 lead with a seven play, 80-yard march that ended in a 4-yard scoring pass to Will Johnson from Brown. The quarterback found an open Starks for 55 yards on the third play of the drive to move his team into the red zone.

A quick three-and-out for the Pirates only seemed to add to the confidence on Stewart's sideline. However, as the ball rolled after the ensuing punt, it bounced off the hands of Sanders and into those of ECU's Dekota Marshall at the WVU 6-yard line.

Holtz and company failed to fully capitalize on the opportunity, as a rush for no gain by Lindsay and two incomplete passes from Pinkney forced the visitors to settle for a 23-yard Hartman field goal. WVU led 14-13 with 4:20 left in the half.

Brown continued his strong start on the next drive, quickly marching the Mountaineers downfield. He hit Sanders for a 28-yard gain to the East Carolina 11-yard line. On the next play, he threw a short pass into the flat to Arnett, who turned and beat a defender to the sidelines for a touchdown and a 21-13 advantage.

The WVU defense again forced a three-and-out on the next possession, but a fumble by Hogan on the punt return was recovered by ECU at the Mountaineers' 18-yard line.

This time, the Pirates took advantage of the miscue. Pinkney found Jamar Bryant for a 4-yard touchdown with 11 seconds remaining to make the score 21-20 at the half.

"We overcame a 10-point deficit, and then gave them 10 more on (mistakes) on punt returns," Stewart said. "We looked like school boys (at times) out there. We'll get that corrected."

Brown was 12-of-16 for 193 yards and three touchdowns in the opening half, and also led all rushers with 35 yards on his four carries at the intermission.

That strong first half for the quarterback would carry over, and with a defense that only allowed the Pirates to cross midfield once in the second half, WVU would have more than enough to head into a week three match-up at Auburn with a 2-0 record.

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