|Enlarge||By Sara D. Davis, AP|
|East Carolina's Jonathan Williams is pulled down just shy of the end zone by West Virginia's John Holmes during the first half.|
GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) — East Carolina didn't need any final-moment heroics to seal its latest upset. This time, coach Skip Holtz's plucky Pirates all but had No. 8 West Virginia put away by halftime.
Jonathan Williams had two short touchdown runs, quarterback Patrick Pinkney was nearly perfect and East Carolina routed the Mountaineers 24-3 on Saturday for its third straight win over a ranked team.
"It feels like we won a championship today," defensive end C.J. Wilson said.
Pinkney was 22-of-28 for 236 yards with a touchdown for East Carolina (2-0), which was coming off an upset of then-No. 17 Virginia Tech in which the Pirates returned a blocked punt for the decisive touchdown in the closing minutes.
They didn't let West Virginia hang around nearly that long: They never trailed, kept Pat White in check, had 386 total yards to the Mountaineers' 251 and thoroughly outplayed them from start to finish on both sides of the ball. The result was a remarkably easy upset of a top-10 team, the school's first since Steve Logan led his Pirates past then-No. 9 Miami 27-23 on Sept. 23, 1999, in a game played 90 miles west in Raleigh because of Hurricane Floyd-related damage.
"I told them it wasn't going to take an out-of-body experience to beat West Virginia," Holtz said.
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These Pirates may have done something even more remarkable. They followed last season's Hawaii Bowl victory over then-No. 22 Boise State by taking care of the two toughest teams on this year's schedule, a pair of high-profile programs that Holtz has used as measuring sticks for the East Carolina program he is in his fourth year of rebuilding.
His latest wins could propel the Pirates back into the Top 25 for the first time since '99 while keeping them in the conversation for an at-large BCS berth — not that they're looking that far ahead yet.
"We've come a long way," Holtz said. "There was a time when we couldn't win three in a row."
White rushed for 97 yards on 20 carries and finished 11-of-18 for 72 yards for the Mountaineers (1-1), who for the second time in four games as a top-10 team were stunned by an unranked opponent dating back to a loss to Pittsburgh last December that kept them out of the national championship game.
"They beat us up," White said.
Pat McAfee kicked a 26-yard field goal midway through the second quarter for West Virginia's only points. The Mountaineers were held without a touchdown for the first time since a 45-3 loss at Miami in 2001.
"(To) the naysayers out there that want to ruin a guy's season after the first or second game, I'm not going to get all down in the dumps," coach Bill Stewart said. "You can't just put the old gold and blue on. ... You've got to play in the old gold and blue."
East Carolina entered just 2-17 against West Virginia with seven straight losses in the series, though Holtz had contained the Mountaineers' run-first offense in each of the two previous meetings before last year's 48-7 romp in Morgantown. The 8-point underdogs claimed a surprisingly lopsided win by keeping the ball away from West Virginia's high-powered offense and wearing down an inexperienced defense that consistently missed tackles and allowed the Pirates to convert half of their 16 third downs.
"Our offense really controlled the line of scrimmage and chewed up the clock and converted on third downs," safety Van Eskridge said. "With the speed they have on offense, if one guy gets out of position, they can really burn you ... (but) we settled down and slowed them down."
The Pirates had three scoring drives of 11 or more plays and went longer than six minutes, and Williams capped two of them with scoring runs of 5 and 1 yards. His second score came on East Carolina's first possession of the second half, closed a 12-play drive that included three third-down conversions and sent the crowd into delirium.
Williams, one of the committee of running backs Holtz is counting on to replace Tennessee Titans first-round draft pick Chris Johnson, led East Carolina with 69 yards on 17 carries.
The game was played hours after Tropical Storm Hanna blew through eastern North Carolina, but the storm system had no effect on the game, with the grass field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium holding firm throughout.
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