Pirates end drought against Tar Heels
By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Oh, redemption is sweet.
Ben Hartman, who had missed three field attempts earlier in the game, drilled a 39-yarder as time expired to lift the East Carolina Pirates to a 34-31 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday night.
The Pirates (1-1) had a chance to take the win after North Carolina (1-1) botched a field goal attempt at the other end of the field. Following the miscue, ECU took over at its own 47-yard line with 49 seconds to play. Patrick Pinkney who had a monstrous game in his first career start, hit Phillip Henry and Dwayne Harris for 19 and 13-yard completions to get to the UNC 21.
After a couple more plays, Hartman squeezed his boot just inside the left upright as time expired, sending the ECU faithful into a frenzy.
The win snapped a 32-year drought for the Pirates, who last beat UNC 38-17 in 1975. The Tar Heels still own an 8-2-1 series lead.
Pinkney, understandably, drew the most praise from Holtz. The junior was brilliant for the Pirates. Using his feet to get out of trouble, and his poise in the pocket, Pinkney clicked on 31-of-41 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns.
Running back Chris Johnson hauled in five of Pinkney’s passes, good for 136 yards and two scores. Jamar Bryant (6 for 93 yards), Henry (6 for 67 yards) and Davon Drew (4 for 51 yards and a score) also had big games thanks to Pinkney’s arm.
UNC coach Butch Davis was impressed with the Pirates.
Freshman quarterback T.J. Yates wasn’t too shabby for the Tar Heels, either. Yates hit on 20-of-32 tosses for 344 yards and three scores. He was also intercepted once.
Hakeem Nicks (6 for 77 yards and a score) and Brandon Tate (3 for 102 yards and two scores) came up big time and time again for the Heels.
The quarterbacks put on a big show the entire game, creating more swings than on an elementary school playground.
UNC jumped out to a 17-7 lead in the first half. Connor Barth’s 39-yard field goal, set up by a 53-yard pass from Yates to fullback Bobby Rome on the first play from scrimmage, gave the Heels the early 3-0 lead.
The Pirates answered immediately. Faced with a third-and-16, Pinkney dumped the ball off to Johnson. The speedy ECU tailback turned on the jets and raced untouched 78 yards for the score. The first touchdown toss of Pinkney’s career, along with Hartman’s PAT, gave the Pirates a 7-3 lead.
Yates answered with TD tosses of 37 yards to Nicks and 39 yards to Tate for the 17-7 advantage.
ECU scored twice in the final 86 seconds of the first half — a 15-yard TD catch by Drew and a 33-yard field goal by Hartman, to tie it at 17-17.
The Pirates rode that momentum into the second half. Pinkney and Johnson hooked up again, this one covering 24 yards, to give ECU a 24-17 lead.
In the blink of an eye, the Tar Heels pulled within 24-23. Yates aired it out to Tate, who made a nice over-the-shoulder grab and scored on a 51-yard sling. Barth missed the PAT to leave ECU with the one-point lead.
The Pirates pushed their lead to 31-23 when Johnson took an option pitch from Pinkney and sprinted to the end zone.
Tate’s 58-yard punt return for a score to end the third quarter breathed new life into the Heels. Yates hit Anthony Elzy, who seemed to be surrounded by Pirates, with the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 31-31.
Barth lined up for a potential 52-yard game-winning kick, but a botched snap gave the Pirates another chance.
Hartman didn’t waste his final chance, coming through in the clutch.
Former Roanoke High School standout Trimane Goddard finished with five tackles for the Tar Heels. C.J. Wilson, a defensive end for the Pirates and a former standout at Northside High School, had three tackles.
The Pirates return to action Saturday at home in the Conference USA opener against Southern Miss. North Carolina will play host to Virginia in its ACC opener.