NCF Nation: Patrick Pinkney

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Virginia Tech fans can rest assured Ryan Williams' fourth-quarter fumble against North Carolina has become ancient history in the young star's mind. Williams ran for 179 yards in the Hokies' 16-3 win over East Carolina on Thursday night, helping Virginia Tech to move on and forget its devastating back-to-back losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina.

Even though Williams didn't get into the end zone, his ability to run the ball and the Hokies' ability to control the line of scrimmage was the difference in the game. Williams showed why he was a midseason favorite to win the ACC's Player of the Year award, as much of his yardage came by breaking tackles, lowering his shoulder and keeping his feet moving. Virginia Tech also got the most complete effort from its defense it has seen in the past two games, and Cody Grimm seemed to be in on almost every play.

That being said, ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney made some erroneous throws and helped the Hokies out with his inaccuracy. The Pirates also hurt themselves on numerous occasions with three turnovers, eight penalties, dropped passes and missed tackles. Overall, it was a sloppy game for both teams, as Virginia Tech was only able to score one touchdown. But in the end that was all the Hokies needed to avoid a second straight nationally televised upset.

This was exactly the kind of game the Hokies needed to get some of their confidence back and finish the season strong. There's no reason Virginia Tech shouldn't earn another 10-win season. With only Maryland, NC State and Virginia remaining -- teams that have combined for just three conference wins -- the Hokies' toughest days should be behind team.

And for Williams, his best days are yet to come.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson

Fresno State looks to ruin Idaho’s title hopes and advance their own in the process.

Air Force is relying on its senior offensive line to help carry the Falcons to bowl eligibility.

Louisiana-Lafayette coach Rickey Bustle is looking for his team to play a complete game this weekend against Arkansas State.

Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley has been bombarded with questions about his team’s play calling.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Gil Lebreton writes that TCU should be more concerned with the BCS money than the title.

Since qualifying for a sixth season, ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney has been thankful for another chance to play top opponents.

Utah’s not complaining about the close wins because they all count the same.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson


For the second consecutive week, East Carolina blew an early lead. Only last week’s game against West Virginia resulted in a loss.

The Pirates led 10-0, but West Virginia took a 21-20 lead at half and ultimately won 35-20. It wasn’t the way coach Skip Holtz envisioned the season going especially since he returned nearly every player from a team that upset West Virginia a year ago, but the Pirates had trouble on offense and couldn’t stop the big plays on defense. Now, it has a week to regroup and get ready in-state rival North Carolina.

“You worry about your team's attitude when you reach your first loss, especially a team that has high expectations and goals,” Holtz said. “Meeting with the players Sunday, they're a little bit down as expected. … With all that being said about West Virginia, the challenge escalates that much more this week for a number of reasons -- it's an in-state game that is very emotional for our players, fan base and alumni. With the North Carolina and East Carolina fan bases being so intertwined, there's an awful lot that goes into this game emotionally. It's going to be difficult.”

North Carolina has had its struggles, too. It nearly lost to Connecticut last week, but was saved by a safety call in the end zone and walked away with a 12-10 comeback win.

Holtz said East Carolina, which had 237 yards of total offense (West Virginia had 509) last week, needs to have a better showing a against a North Carolina defense that ranks No. 7 in the country in total defense allowing 174.50 yards per game and is 12th in scoring offense with just 8.0 points per game.

“We thought our tackles were challenged last week?” Holtz said. “They're really going to be challenged this week with the pressure their defensive ends can bring off the perimeter. The front line is so big, strong and athletic. Our offensive line is going to have a heck of a challenge this week.”

East Carolina’s offense has been stagnant in the second halves of both of their games this season. The Pirates have combined for just two points in those games. In the second half against Appalachian State, the Pirates had just 58 yards of total offense. In the second half against West Virginia, they had 66.

Holtz said he’s talked about switching quarterbacks from starter Patrick Pinkney, who is completing 28-of-66 passes (42.4 percent) with two touchdowns and three interceptions, but isn’t ready to throw freshman Josh Jordan into the fire and he doesn’t have the depth at fullback to move Rob Kass, last year’s backup quarterback, back to that position.

The Pirates need Pinkney and the receivers to pick it up especially since the running game will be without leading rusher Dominique Lindsay, who suffered a shoulder injury against West Virginia and is doubtful for this weekend. Also, North Carolina has limited teams to just 1.85 yards per rush.

“I'm excited to have the opportunity to play this game,” Holtz said. “I understand the significance, magnitude and history of this series. Not just on the football field, either. It extends to the way this university has been developed. I know there are a lot of things that makes this a huge rivalry game. I know, and our players know, the importance of this game.

“Many of our players were told they weren't good enough to play at North Carolina. This will be a game that they put a chip on their shoulders for. I'm excited to go play this game.”

Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

Eight quarterbacks from the nonautomatic qualifying schools were named to the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award watch list this week.

The award is given annually to the top senior quarterback and recognizes not only exceptional play on the field, but also character, citizenship, integrity and honor of the game.

Past winners of the award include Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn.

In the 21 years of the award, only two non-major conference quarterbacks have won -- Louisville's Chris Redman in 1999 and Fresno State's David Carr in 2001.

Twenty-one total quarterbacks made the 2009 preseason list. Below are the non-AQ representatives:

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Not an easy list to compile, considering half the teams are off and the only in-conference matchup was already played. Still, there's always something worth paying attention to in the ACC on Saturdays:

1. Jimmy Clausen against UNC's secondary -- Yes, the Tar Heels are much improved and already have more interceptions (12) than they did all of last season (11). But the pass defense is what coordinator Everett Withers is concerned about.

2. Virginia quarterback Marc Verica -- Can he do it again against East Carolina? Was last week's performance against Maryland the real deal from the former fourth-stringer? He completed 25 of 34 passes for 226 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Where was that all season?

3. Georgia Tech's youth movement -- Paul Johnson intends on playing just about everyone in this game, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see all three quarterbacks, too. Keep an eye on true freshman A-back Marcus Wright, a speedy player likely to burn his redshirt.

4. UNC running back Shaun Draughn -- He is listed as probable heading into this game, and they'll need him to provide a boost to an otherwise inconsistent running game. Draughn rushed for 109 yards and one touchdown on just 19 carries last week against Connecticut.

5. Miami's defense -- The Hurricanes have been struggling lately, and first-year coordinator Bill Young took the blame for it in his first public comments to the media. The Hurricanes have the ability to beat UCF, but will have to play smart football in an emotional game between players who are all-too familiar with each other.

6. UNC linebacker Bruce Carter -- How can you NOT watch this guy since he's blocked four straight punts?

7. UNC's ability to get to Clausen -- The Irish allowed more sacks than any team in the nation last year (58), but have only allowed five so far this season.

8. Georgia Tech's return game -- It's the only phase of the game left for the Yellow Jackets to have a breakout play. In the past two games, Georgia Tech has produced the longest run in school history (Jonathan Dwyer's 88-yard run against Mississippi State), and the third-longest pass play in Tech history (Jaybo Shaw's 88-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas). More like 80 yards and a cloud of dust.

9. Virginia's defense versus ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney -- Pinkney hasn't entirely been able to compensate for the Pirates' struggles on the ground, but he is 37th in the nation in passing efficiency. Clint Sintim and the Cavaliers smothered Maryland, and every win they've had this season has been a shutout. Go figure.

10. Internal combustion at Clemson -- Athletic director Terry Don Phillips said he doesn't discuss personnel changes in the middle of the season, and Tommy Bowden said he won't make any staff changes, but after Thursday night's loss to Wake Forest, everything in the program should be under review.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

1. Graham Gano vs. Sam Swank: Swank is coming off a game-winner against Ole Miss and Gano is coming off the DL. Swank is 5-for-5 this season, but this is the first season Gano was going to kick field goals and extra points.

2. The rise (and fall?) of Maryland: Eastern Michigan should be a piece of cake, no? So should have been Middle Tennessee State. Watch to see if the Terps learned their lesson or if they continued to play to the level of their unheralded competition.

3. FSU receiver Preston Parker: Don't be surprised to see this versatile athlete run the ball again. He's back from a two-game suspension and with so much depth at receiver and so little at running back, the Noles could certainly use an extra playmaker there.

4. An upset in Chestnut Hill: Central Florida is not a team the Eagles can take lightly, especially after the Knights pushed South Florida to overtime. BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski said he wouldn't mind playing backup quarterback Dominique Davis if the situation permits, but finding mop-up time is unlikely.

5. NC State linebacker Nate Irving: He has had one interception in each of State's first three games, including a 33-yard touchdown return against Clemson last week. The Wolfpack defense will have to pressure ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney to stand a chance against the surging Pirates.

6. Virginia Tech's passing game: If you're watching it, that means it's there, unlike last weekend. Tyrod Taylor only threw the ball 14 times against Georgia Tech and has a tendency to pull the ball down. How much has Taylor and his pass protection improved in the past week?

7. Dueling defenses: Mississippi State just lost a 3-2 game to Auburn, and Georgia Tech has one of the better defenses in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets don't change their scheme, so it will be up to the Bulldogs to adjust to the option quickly.

8. Turnovers: Wake Forest leads the league in turnover margin, as it has gained eight and lost three. Miami spent its bye week putting an emphasis on creating turnovers. And Georgia Tech is looking to stop giving it away.

9. How quickly Miami can adjust to the Aggies' defense: Coach Randy Shannon said the biggest thing in this game will be determining whether Texas A&M goes to a three-man front or a four-man front defensively.

10. UNC's linebackers: Brandon Tate has stolen the spotlight on this team, and deservedly so, but don't miss the play of linebackers Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant. They both had interceptions at Rutgers.

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