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Pirates QB a concern

by Greg Talkington

SPORTS WRITER

MORGANTOWN -- East Carolina quarterback Paul Troth has been described as a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.

West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez hopes that explosion is delayed for one more week, in that the Mountaineers face the Pirates this Saturday at Mountaineer Field.

"Their coaches believe he's real close to a breakout game," Rodriguez said during his weekly press conference Tuesday. "He wasn't very good the first two games, but he matured a little in their last game."

The 6-foot-5, 233-pound sophomore threw seven costly interceptions in close losses to Atlantic Coast Conference foes Duke (23-16) and Wake Forest (27-22).

But in a four-point win over Tulane, Troth avoided the costly mistakes and bad throws that plagued him in his first two starts.

"He had some bad luck in the first couple of games, some dropped balls and he probably pressured himself into trying to make plays that weren't there," Rodriguez said. "It's hard for a young quarterback to just eat it and take the loss, but sometimes that's what you have to do.

"But I think they corrected whatever was going wrong."

A strong running game against Tulane benefited Troth. Fullback Art Brown rushed for 185 yards in the victory.

"A strong running game is crucial when you have a young quarterback," Rodriguez said. "So I'm sure that helped him."

Troth is the most heavily recruited quarterback ever to attend East Carolina. That's impressive when one considers last year's signal caller, David Garrard, is the backup for the Jacksonville Jaguars while Jeff Blake has enjoyed success as a starter and is currently the backup for the Baltimore Ravens. Throw in Canadian Football League star Marcus Crandell, and Troth has joined some pretty select company at ECU.

"They were fortunate to get him," Rodriguez said. "I remember him from when I was at Clemson and he was in high school.

"He definitely has an NFL arm. I believe he has a good chance at playing at the next level. Right now, all he needs is experience."

INJURY UPDATE: Wide receiver and placement holder A.J. Nastasi will miss the game with a high ankle sprain. Mike Page will start in his place as the slot receiver while ex-Robert C. Byrd standout George Shehl will continue as the holder. Wide receiver Dee Alston is battling a sprained thumb, but is expected to play.

PERRY TO PLAY: Freshman wide receiver J.T. Perry probably won't be redshirted, Rodriguez said. The Texas native has been progressing in practice and could see action soon.

"He's picking things up pretty quickly," Rodriguez said. "With Nastasi and Alston injured, we're trying to hurry him along.

"Whenever we feel he's ready, we'll play him."

TWO-HEADED MONSTER: While senior Mark Fazzolari has handled the punting duties to this point, it's likely Todd James will split the duties with him against ECU.

"It depends on field position, even what hash we're on," Rodriguez said. "Faz is a little better directional punter while Todd gets the ball up higher.

"Sometimes he really booms them. I think he has an NFL-caliber leg as a punter, but between kicking and punting, sometimes that always doesn't come out."

Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at gtalkington@exponent-telegram.com