Coach Rich Rodriguez said Monday that East Carolina, despite its disappointing 1-2 season’s start, poses a lot of problems for No. 5-ranked West Virginia on Saturday at Mountaineer Field/Milan Puskar Stadium.

He recalled that the Pirates played WVU “very tough” the past two years, especially against its usually powerful running attack, and that it now has a “phenomenal” quarterback in Patrick Pinkney.

Rodriguez said, “He was in the mix, got an opportunity in the first game, and then in the last two games he’s been the key to the whole offense. He runs the ball very well and has made some great passes.

“He’s very athletic, and he’s obviously a concern. When you go against a guy that can run and make plays, and have the feel for hitting the open man right in stride, you’ve got to be really sharp defensively.

“So we’re going to have a busy week trying to defend an athletic quarterback that can throw as well as he can run.”

Pinkney, a 6-0, 200-pound junior, has completed 65 of 99 passes for 724 yards and five touchdowns and also leads his team in rushing with a net 109 yards on 30 keeper plays. He has thrown only one interception.

The Pirates are averaging 242.7 yards passing compared to only 101.0 yards rushing per game. That doesn’t surprise Rodriguez, though.

“They’ve had so much success throwing the football, I don’t blame them,” he said. “He threw for 400 yards against North Carolina (a 34-31 victory) and also threw the ball well last week (a last-seconds 28-21 loss to Southern Mississippi).

“We’ve had some trouble against the pass at certain times. I’m sure they’re going to spread us out, go wide-open, and throw the ball along with maybe run a little option.”

The WVU coach pointed out that the Pirates use some of the same schemes and plays that his team does, offensively. “They’re similar to what we do as far as spreading you out and have an athletic quarterback that can run as well,” he explained.

“I don’t know how much it will help our defense (prepare) because we don’t allow them to tackle Pat White in practice. But, at the same time, they have seen some of the same stuff in preseason camp and also in the spring.

“So we’ll probably do a little bit more good-on-good (No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense) this week just to get them prepared for the type of spread they will see thus weekend.”

Rodriguez thinks East Carolina probably played the Mountaineers as well, defensively, in 2005 and 2006 as anybody on the schedule. WVU won both games by scores of 20-15 and 27-10.

“They tackle well in space and they’re very, very active,” he said. “As I said, they pose a lot of problems. We had a hard time running the football against them the last two years.”

NOTE: Saturday’s kickoff is set for noon, with ESPN2 announcing Monday that it will televise the game nationally.

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