Pirates survive another scare

Published 9:20 am Sunday, November 9, 2008

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — For the second consecutive week, Ben Hartman was the overtime hero.
After missing a 43-yard field goal on the last play of regulation, Hartman redeemed himself by splitting the uprights from 27 yards out in the extra session, to help East Carolina survive a scare from Marshall and jump into the driver’s seat in the race for Conference USA’s East Division crown, with a 19-16 win over the Thundering Herd at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Saturday afternoon. .
The Pirates led for most of the day as Hartman gave them an early lead on field goals of 31 and 51 yards.
After Marshall cut the deficit to 6-3 on a 31-yard field goal by Craig Ratanamorn with 1:41 left in the opening half, the Pirates responded with their best drive of the game.
ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney completed 6-of-8 passes for 70 yards in the final two minutes, including a five-yard scoring toss to Davon Drew with 12 seconds left in the opening half to give ECU a 13-3 at intermission.
The momentum from the touchdown didn’t last very long.
Marshall’s Darius Marshall returned the second half kickoff 53 yards to set the Herd up at the ECU 47-yard line. After a couple of big first down runs of five and 17 yards by Marshall, Thundering Herd quarterback Mark Cann connected with tight end Cody Slate on a seven-yard slant route in the back of the end zone. However, the PAT attempt bounced off the right upright, making the score 13-9.
The Pirates stretched the lead to 16-9 with 2:55 left in third quarter as Hartman connected on his third field goal of the day, this time from 21 yards out.
From there, the Pirates defense appeared to be in control.
East Carolina limited Marshall to just 121 yards in the final, 22 minutes with two plays accounting for 84 of those yards.
But the Pirates kept giving Marshall chances.
ECU was poised to take a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, but running back Norman Whitley fumbled the ball at the Herd 15-yard line to give the ball back to Marshall.
In the final two minutes, the Pirates had the opportunity to close out the contest on a 3rd-and-2 from their own 24-yard line. With Marshall out of timeouts, ECU needed one first down to run out the clock. But running back brandon Simmons came up a half a yard shy, forcing an ECU punt.
On the punt, the normally reliable Matt Dodge shanked the ball off the side of the foot for a 15-yard kick, giving Marshall the ball at ECU’s 40-yard line.
Two plays later, Marshall capitalized on the Pirates’ miscues as Cann found Slate on a 34-yard touchdown strike to tie the game at 16-16 with 1:21 left in the contest.
On the ensuing possession, the Pirates had their chance to take the lead back.
After T.J. Lee returned the ball to the Pirates’ 23-yard line, Pinkney connected with Davon Drew on a 29-yard pass down to the Marshall 48-yard line.
After Simmons carried the ball for five yards, Pinkney then connected with Darryl Freeney for an 11-yard pass down to the Marshall 32-yard line.
Four plays later, Hartman trotted onto the field to attempt a game-winning 43-yarder.
But as the clock struck zero, Hartman’s kick sailed to the left of the uprights, forcing the overtime.
East Carolina won the toss and elected to go defense first.
The Pirates held Marshall to no gain in the extra period, giving Marshall a 42-yard field goal attempt. But for the second time on the day, Ratanamorn hooked a field goal attempt wide right.
That allowed Hartman to strut onto the field and reddem himself.
East Carolina’s pass game re-emerged after struggling the last month.
After playing sparingly last week, Pinkney got the start on Saturday, and delivered his best performance of the season. The senior quarterback completed a season-high 26-of-37 passes for 287 yards and a touchdown.
Davon Drew also had another big day as he caught four passes for 80 yards, including a touchdown.
Defensively, Emmanuel Davis intercepted two passes - he now has three in the last two games - while defensive ends C.J. Wilson and Zack Slate each added sacks.
With the victory, East Carolina (6-3, 4-1 in Conference USA) has now become bowl eligible for the third straight season. The Pirates also control their own destiny to earn a berth in the C-USA title game.
The Pirates will travel to Hattiesburg, MS next Saturday to take on Southern Miss, which improved to 4-6 (2-4 in C-USA action) with a 17-6 win over Central Florida on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.
Marshall 0 3 6 7 0 — 16
East Carolina 3 10 3 0 3 — 19
First Quarter
ECU—FG Hartman 31, 3:41.
Second Quarter
ECU—FG Hartman 51, 9:19.
Mar—FG Ratanamorn 31, 1:41.
ECU—Drew 5 pass from Pinkney (Hartman kick), :12.
Third Quarter
Mar—Slate 7 pass from Cann (kick failed), 10:19.
ECU—FG Hartman 21, 2:55.
Fourth Quarter
Mar—Slate 34 pass from Cann (Warner kick), 1:21.
ECU—FG Hartman 27.
First downs 15 20
Rushes-yards 36-149 38-100
Passing 137 287
Comp-Att-Int 13-30-2 26-37-0
Return Yards 0 31
Punts-Avg. 4-32.8 5-34.6
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 3-20 7-94
Time of Possession 34:09 25:51
RUSHING—Marshall, Marshall 20-123, Small 12-32, Passmore 1-3, Cann 3-(minus 9). East Carolina, Whitley 23-68, B.Simmons 7-21, Pinkney 7-13, Harris 1-(minus 2).
PASSING—Marshall, Cann 13-29-2-137, Milligan 0-1-0-0. East Carolina, Pinkney 26-37-0-287.
RECEIVING—Marshall, Slate 5-62, Passmore 2-58, Marshall 2-4, L.Smith 1-7, Small 1-3, Wynn 1-2, Milligan 1-1. East Carolina, Whitley 5-60, Harris 5-39, Lee 4-61, Drew 3-51, B.Simmons 3-10, Taylor 2-29, Womack 2-23, Freeney 1-11, Kraemer 1-3.