Pirates top Miners in overtime
EL PASO, Texas — The battle of Conference USA division-leading teams Saturday evening at the Sun Bowl was a shootout, as expected.
The East Carolina Pirates (4-3, 3-1), who lead the C-USA East, topped the UTEP Miners (4-3, 2-1), who lead the C-USA West, 45-42 in overtime. Rob Kass scored on a 1-yard plunge in overtime for the difference.
The Miners got on the board first when Trevor Vittatoe hit Marcus Thomas with a 42-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
ECU got on the board with a 52-yard field goal by Ben Hartman.
The Pirates took a 10-7 when defensive back Van Eskridge scooped up a Lorne Sam fumble, caused by linebacker Pierre Bell, and raced 50 yards to the end zone.
Jose Martinez knotted the game at 10-10 with a 41-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
Hartman followed with his second and third field goals of the contest, coming from 27 and 24 yards out, to give the Pirates a 16-10 advantage.
The final minute of the first half was action-packed.
Vittatoe hit Joe West on a slant for a 9-yard touchdown toss that tied the game at 16-16.
C.J. Wilson blocked the PAT and Travis Williams picked up the ball and returned it to the other end zone for a 2 points and an 18-16 ECU lead.
The Pirates tried for another late score, but Rob Kass threw his first interception of the season. Nuues Punimata’s pickoff set up a 42-yard field goal by Martinez on the final play of the half, giving the Miners a 19-18 lead.
Martinez booted his third field goal of the game early in the third quarter for a 22-18 UTEP lead.
Dwayne Harris then came up with a pair of huge plays for the Pirates. The ECU freshman broke off a career-long 57 yard TD run to reclaim the lead for the Pirates, 25-22. Harris then threw a career-long 80-yard touchdown pass to Jamar Bryant, handing the Pirates a 32-22 advantage.
Martinez pulled the Miners with a touchdown at 32-25 with a 43-yard kick, his fourth field goal of the game.
Vittatoe’s third touchdown pass of the night, a 17-yard strike to Jeff Moturi, tied the game at 32-32 just five seconds into the fourth quarter.
Thomas broke off a 31-yard run with 33 seconds to play to give the Miners a 39-32 lead. However, Kass found Juwon Crowell open for a 34-yard scoring strike on the final play of regulation to force overtime.
Martinez kicked a 45-yard field goal for UTEP on its first possession.
Kass answered with a 1-yard plunge to give the Pirates a 45-42 victory.
The Pirates return home next Saturday to take on the N.C. State Wolfpack. Kickoff at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is set for 4:30 p.m.