GREENVILLE, N.C. — To the surprise of nearly everyone who flocked into Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday, the clouds cleared before East Carolina played West Virginia.
Nearly as surprising, the sun again shined on the Pirates in their 24-3 upset of the No. 8 Mountaineers.
Not only were the Pirates heavy underdogs against a nationally ranked foe for the second week in a row, but the game was supposed to be played in a driving rain storm — or at least in very windy conditions. Tropical Storm Hanna blew up the East Coast early Saturday and the ECU campus was supposed to be in its path.
Instead, the rain stopped falling three hours before the 4:30 p.m. ET kickoff. And once the game began, many of the 43,610 fans in the sold-out stadium were left clamoring for any kind of breeze while sitting in unbelievably humid and sticky conditions.
If only the weather had been as predictable as West Virginia’s offense.
With the Pirates shutting down quarterback Pat White, the Mountaineers never found the end zone on Saturday — and never really came close. In what was supposed to be a revamped offense (in which White would throw more and run less), East Carolina held the Heisman Trophy candidate to only 72 passing yards and sacked him three times.
The Mountaineers were the third consecutive ranked team to fall to East Carolina. The Pirates ended the 2007 season with a 41-38 victory over then-No. 22 Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl, then opened the 2008 season last week by upsetting No. 17 Virginia Tech 27-22 in Charlotte.
“There was a time we couldn’t win three games in a year,” Pirates coach Skip Holtz said.
The Pirates sacked Pat White three times and held him to 97 yards rushing.
Holtz, the son of former Notre Dame and current ESPN college football analyst Lou Holtz, inherited a team that went 2-9 in 2004. He led the Pirates to records of 5-6 in 2005, 7-6 in 2006 and 8-5 last season.
There’s no telling how many games the Pirates will win this year. None figure to be as difficult as the first two. East Carolina opens Conference USA play next week at Tulane and doesn’t figure to face another ranked team until a bowl game.
*****from ECU grad Jim Modlin by way of espn.com and to read more on East Carolina’s upset win, go to espn.go.com*****