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Run of runs run out as WVU wins

September 25, 2005|By JOHN RABY

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.

For once, West Virginia couldn't run all over East Carolina.

The Mountaineers' ground game, the seventh best in Division I-A entering Saturday's game, didn't put up the gaudy numbers it had the past three seasons against the Pirates.

Despite not scoring in the second half for the first time in four years, West Virginia did just enough. Adam Bednarik and Pat White each threw a touchdown pass and the Mountaineers held on for a 20-15 win.

With a showdown looming next weekend against No. 4 Virginia Tech, West Virginia's offense struggled with 307 total yards, 102 after halftime.

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"It was a very uninspiring performance," said West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez. "Obviously, we did not play well.

"If we cannot run the football on somebody, then we will struggle."

West Virginia (4-0) had averaged 458 yards on the ground against East Carolina over the last three seasons but were limited to 127 Saturday.

"This is a program that prides itself on toughness and I thought they stood there toe-to-toe with them from a run-game standpoint," said East Carolina coach Skip Holtz, whose team allowed 407 rushing yards last week in a loss to Wake Forest. "Defensively, we did a much better job holding our gaps."

West Virginia's young quarterback tandem had its worst outing, combining for three interceptions and a fumble. Freshman Pat McAfee missed two field goals and an extra point.

The Mountaineers failed to score in the second half for the first time since Oct. 25, 2001.

The WVU defense, which nearly let Maryland come back from a 15-point deficit last week, gave up a quick score to East Carolina in the fourth quarter to make things interesting.

"We preach to play hard and keep focused all week, but it just wasn't there today," Rodriguez said. "I told our team to take this game as a lesson learned."

Except for Robert Lee's three field goals, East Carolina (1-2) was equally as inept in the first three quarters, when it had the ball inside the West Virginia 20 four times but failed to reach the end zone.

"I'll take most of the blame for that," said East Carolina quarterback James Pinkney.

Still, after falling behind 20-3, East Carolina had a chance to win.

A poor punt gave the Pirates the ball at the West Virginia 48 and East Carolina needed just 44 seconds to score on Pinkney's 11-yard TD pass to Aundrae Allison with five minutes left. The two-point conversion pass attempt failed.

East Carolina got the ball back twice more, including at its 38-yard line with 19 seconds left. Pinkney hit Chris Johnson with a 10-yard pass but was sacked by Keilen Dykes on the next play to end the contest.

On the game's first series, Pinkney fumbled as he was hit by Marc Magro. Jeff Noechel recovered for the Mountaineers at the ECU 44. Six plays later, Bednarik hit Darius Reynaud with a 15-yard TD pass.

But Bednarik was intercepted and fumbled the ball away on the next two series. Bednarik strained his knee on the latter play and did not return until the third quarter.

For the second straight year, West Virginia returned a punt 76 yards for a score in the second quarter against the Pirates. Antonio Lewis' return put the Mountaineers ahead 14-3.

West Virginia's Brandon Myles had three catches for 40 yards on another second-quarter drive, including a 10-yard TD reception from White for a 20-3 lead.

Late in the half, Myles was called for a personal foul for leaping as he tried to block a field-goal try. East Carolina took the points off the board and got the ball at the 8, but Pinkney was intercepted by Mike Lorello in the end zone on the next play.

White was picked off a few plays later and Lee kicked a 22-yard field goal for East Carolina as time ran out in the half.

"We can look back and say one or two plays (were) the difference in the game," Holtz said. "You look at the punt return and the interception in the end zone."

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