GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- James Pinkney ran for two touchdowns and
threw for a score Saturday to help East Carolina beat Duke 24-21 in
Skip Holtz's debut as Pirates coach.
Aundrae Allison had 10 catches for 163 yards and a score for the
Pirates, who won their season opener for the first time since
beating Duke 38-0 in 2000. Zach Baker added two interceptions and a
fumble recovery to lead a solid defensive effort that made the Blue
Devils work for every yard.
Justin Boyle ran for two touchdowns for the Blue Devils, who
have not won an opener on the road in 17 years. Ronnie Drummer
added a 100-yard kickoff return for a score.
Holtz had spent the past six seasons as an assistant to his
father, Lou, at South Carolina, and is charged with resurrecting
East Carolina's once-proud program.
The Pirates boasted a top-10 ranking in 1991 and has 12 bowl
appearances, but has been in a steady decline ever since blowing a
30-point halftime lead in a 64-61 double-overtime loss to Marshall
in the 2001 GMAC Bowl.
Going back to the final two games of the 2002 season, East
Carolina has lost 22 of 25 games. Nineteen losses have come by
double-digit margins, with seven by at least 33 points. Those
struggles led to the resignation of John Thompson, who won just
three games in two seasons.
The change paid immediate dividends for a program in desperate
need of success.
The Pirates got a 45-yard return on the opening kickoff by
Markeith McQueen, a 52-yard punt return by Travis Williams to set
up their first touchdown and a series of big plays from Pinkney and
Allison throughout to stay in front most of the way.
But most important was the play of East Carolina's defense, a
unit that gave up nearly 40 points per game last season.
Baker led that effort. The senior safety recovered a botched
handoff between Mike Schneider and Boyle inside ECU's 15 in the
second quarter, then intercepted a deflected pass from Schneider to
Ronnie Elliott inside the goal line in the third.
In the final period, with the Pirates protecting a three-point
lead, he drove in front of Andy Roland and intercepted a pass from
Schneider with less than five minutes left.
That kind of effort was more than enough for the offense, which
got a steady performance from Pinkney. Pinkney completed 17 of 21
passes for 236 yards, standing in the pocket and taking several
hits while delivering a pass to move the chains.
As the final seconds ticked off, players doused Holtz with a
cooler of ice water, then celebrated with their coach near
Pinkney got the Pirates on the board with a 1-yard sneak for a
7-0 lead, then connected with Allison for a 50-yard score down the
left sideline for a 14-7 lead midway through the first quarter.
After Boyle tied it with a 1-yard run, the Pirates went ahead to
stay on a 32-yard field goal from Robert Lee for a 17-14 halftime
edge. East Carolina pushed that lead to 24-14 on a second sneak
Boyle's second short TD run early in the fourth cut the deficit
to 24-21, but the Blue Devils got no closer. Pierre Parker sealed
it with an interception with 1:16 left, sending the Pirates'
sideline into celebration.