Pirates rally to top Tulane, 28-24

Published 10:45 pm Sunday, September 14, 2008

By By The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — After vaulting into the rankings with two upsets, East Carolina barely avoided being on the receiving end of a surprising loss.
Patrick Pinkney threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Jamar Bryant with 1:41 left in the fourth quarter, and the No. 14 Pirates rallied for a 28-24 victory against Tulane on Saturday.
The Pirates (3-0, 1-0 Conference USA) moved into the AP Top 25 — and the national spotlight — by upsetting Virginia Tech and West Virginia in consecutive weeks, but they had to overcome four turnovers and a scrappy Green Wave (0-2, 0-1) team to stay unbeaten.
Pinkney completed 22 of 32 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns, and the Pirates improved to 3-0 for the first time since 1999. ECU secured the victory when Pierre Bell intercepted Kevin Moore’s pass at the Green Wave 45 with 28 seconds left.
Ross Thevenot kicked a 28-yard field goal with 13:40 left in the fourth quarter to put Tulane up 24-21.
Pinkney drove the Pirates 80 yards in nine plays for the winning score as Tulane lost its 34th consecutive game against a ranked opponent.
The Green Wave last beat a ranked team in 1982 when they defeated No. 12 LSU 31-28.
Moore was 21-for-37 for 236 yards and a 47-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Williams in the third quarter that tied it at 14.
Williams finished with eight catches for 138 yards, and Andre Anderson ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns.
Brandon Simmons’ broke a 7-7 halftime tie for East Carolina with a 3-yard touchdown run, capping the first drive of the second half.
The Pirates regained the lead, 21-14, on the next possession as Pinkney’s screen pass to Norman Whitley turned into a 51-yard touchdown with 5:45 remaining in the third quarter.
Anderson’s 1-yard TD run late in the third quarter tied the score again.
East Carolina’s C.J. Wilson blocked Tevenot’s 46-yard field-goal attempt and Quentin Cotton returned the ball 44 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 12:16 remaining in the second quarter.
Evan Lee’s fumble recovery at the East Carolina 10 set up Tulane’s first score, a 1-yard run by Anderson with 59 seconds left in the first quarter.
East Carolina 0 7 14 7 — 28
Tulane 0 7 14 3 — 24
Second Quarter
ECU—Cotton 44 blocked field goal return (Dodge kick), 12:16.
Tul—Anderson 1 run (Thevenot kick), :59.
Third Quarter
ECU—B.Simmons 3 run (Ryan kick), 9:55.
Tul—J.Williams 47 pass from Moore (Thevenot kick), 8:04.
ECU—Whitley 51 pass from Pinkney (Ryan kick), 5:45.
Tul—Anderson 1 run (Thevenot kick), 2:51.
Fourth Quarter
Tul—FG Thevenot 28, 13:40.
ECU—J.Bryant 24 pass from Pinkney (Ryan kick), 1:41.
First downs 20 16
Rushes-yards 30-56 37-76
Passing 260 236
Comp-Att-Int 22-32-1 21-37-2
Return Yards 28 0
Punts-Avg. 4-46.5 5-46.6
Fumbles-Lost 4-3 2-0
Penalties-Yards 7-60 5-35
Time of Possession 25:59 34:01
RUSHING—East Carolina, B.Simmons 9-27, Williams 5-11, Pinkney 11-11, Whitley 1-5, Harris 3-5, Team 1-(minus 3). Tulane, Anderson 33-82, Stephany 1-1, Moore 3-(minus 7).
PASSING—East Carolina, Pinkney 22-32-1-260. Tulane, Moore 21-37-2-236.
RECEIVING—East Carolina, Harris 6-72, J.Bryant 5-59, Drew 3-26, B.Simmons 3-5, Whitley 2-52, Freeney 2-36, Williams 1-10. Tulane, J.Williams 8-138, Anderson 5-29, Dunn 2-25, Sparks 2-13, Stephany 1-12, Batiste 1-10, King 1-6, Kessler 1-3.
An ugly game, but a good win
By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
There’s going to be a lot of chatter about the Pirates overlooking Tulane on Saturday.
Fans are going to question East Carolina’s focus. Harp on the lack of a ground attack. Send hate mail to ECU’s secondary. And ask if the Pirates are worthy of their No. 14 national ranking after squeaking by the Green Wave 28-24..
However, if you ask me, East Carolina took another step forward Saturday in New Orleans.
The Pirates learned how to fight through adversity and win a close football game.
In the first half, the Pirates offense struggled mightily as they could only garner 81 yards of total offense, and in the second half, the defensive secondary was burned by a couple of long passes, one that went for a touchdown and another that set up a touchdown.
There were tons of miscues by the Pirates all day long, like a season-high four turnovers, a missed field goal, 60 yards worth of penalties and a kickoff out of bounds, to name a few.
But none was bigger than Brandon Simmons fumble late in the third quarter. Simmons caught a swing pass along the right sideline and went to turn up field. As he tucked the ball away, Simmons was popped by Tulane’s Josh Lumar and the ball squirted loose, into the hands of the Green Wave’s David Skehan.
On the ensuing possession, the Green Wave marched inside the ECU 10 yard line and settled for 28-yard field goal by Ross Thevenot to take its first lead of the game at 24-21 with 13:40 left on the clock.
The Green Wave had a chance to extend that lead midway through the fourth quarter after forcing a fumble by ECU QB Patrick Pinkney at the ECU 36-yard line with 6:39 to go.
But the Pirates defense dug down deep and came up with a big stop, limiting Tulane to one yard and forcing them to go three-and-out.
Getting the ball back at their own 20-yard line with 5:46 remaining, the Pirates showed the spirit of a champion.
Pinkney marched the Pirates 80 yards down field, running three times for 21 yards and completing 3-of-5 passes for 64 yards as the Pirates punched the ball into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. There was only 1:41 left as Pinkney hooked up with Jamar Bryant on a 24-yard scoring strike to make it 28-24.
On the ensuing possession, Pierre Bell sealed the victory with an interception and the Pirates moved to 3-0 for the first time since 1999.
Now some will say the Pirates shouldn’t have won. And others will ask how the No. 14 team in the country can nearly lose to a team that went 4-8 a year ago?
But the fact is, the Pirates did everything a good football team does.
They won in the conference. They won on the road. They won when they weren’t at their best. And they won a game they were supposed to.
Ugly or not, good teams win football games. And the Pirates have done just that so far this season.