MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It was one year and six days ago that East Carolina upset then-No. 8 West Virginia, the highest-ranked opponent any ECU team had ever beaten.
That historic win seemed like, well, history on the Pirates' return trip to West Virginia on Saturday. The new-look Mountaineers overcame a mountain of mistakes and cranked out 509 yards of total offense to handle ECU 35-20 at Milan Puskar Stadium.
So successful a year ago against West Virginia's record-setting quarterback Pat White in a 24-3 win in Greenville, ECU's defense had no answer for WVU's new quarterback, Jarrett Brown, who threw for 334 yards and four touchdowns.
ECU coach Skip Holtz sighed, then attempted a smile when asked about Brown's big day. Holtz tried to focus on the positive after Brown charred the depleted secondary, missing two starters, for passing plays of 58, 55, 46 and 28 yards.
"Outside of the big plays, I thought our secondary did some decent things," Holtz said.
It wasn't just the big plays that sent ECU to its 13th loss in as many trips to Morgantown.
Just like last week's 29-24 win over Appalachian State, the offense started hot but faded in the second half. The Pirates, who could only muster a safety in the second half of the opener, were shutout in the second half by WVU, which held ECU to 62 rushing yards and forced quarterback Patrick Pinkney into a 16-of-39 passing effort.
"They made plays, we didn't," said Pinkney, who was sacked four times and threw an interception. "Point blank."
It was ECU that made plays out of the gate. Twelve minutes into the game, the Pirates led 10-0 and looked like they were on their way to another win over WVU, just like last year's game.
But while the smaller White was known for his running ability, Brown's 6-4 and can sling it, as he showed when hit Alric Arnett for a 46-yard touchdown with 8 seconds left in the first quarter to get WVU back in the game.
Brown's 55-yard hookup with Bradley Starks set up the Mountaineers' second score, a 4-yard touchdown catch by Will Johnson.
"Maybe we were worried too much about the run instead of playing our assignments," said ECU safety Van Eskridge, who took the blame for both deep balls. "We definitely felt like we could stop them, we felt like we could repeat the things we did last year but we didn't go out there and get it done."
Not that West Virginia was a model of efficiency. The Mountaineers were called for 11 penalties, costing them 104 yards, and turned the ball over four times.
Twice in the first half, WVU misplayed punts inside its own 20-yard line setting up ECU for 10 easy points.
Then in the second half, Brown turned the ball over twice inside ECU's 20-yard line, keeping ECU in the game despite its offensive troubles.
Brown's unforced fumble at ECU's 18-yard line with the Pirates trailing 28-20 gave ECU a fourth-quarter chance to rally.
Instead, Pinkney missed Jamar Bryant deep on first down, then the Pirates got called for offsides. Pinkney was sacked on third down and the possession, and window of opportunity, was over.
"When we got to Brown, he turned and made something happen," Holtz said. "When they got to Patrick, it was a sack. That was the difference in the game."
What a difference a year makes for ECU.