It's full spead ahead for Pirates|ECU’s fast start cages Tigers

Published 3:50 pm Sunday, September 12, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE – There was no need for last second heroics for East Carolina on Saturday as the Pirates took care of business early against Memphis in their 49-27 win.
East Carolina out-scored the Tigers 28-3 in the first quarter and never looked back as it improved its overall, and Conference USA record, to 2-0 with the win.
After letting up over 500 yards of total offense in last week’s 51-49 victory over Tulsa, the Pirates’ defense took a step forward on Saturday as it forced and recovered two fumbles that led to touchdowns and picked off a pass for another score all in the first quarter.
ECU quarterback Dominique Davis was sharp once again connecting on 27 of his 38 pass attempts for 244 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 10 yards and two TDs.
Running back Jonathan Williams was a factor for the Pirates as he continues to make the most out of his attempts by rushing for a career-high 109 yards and one touchdown on only 17 carries. Williams also caught six passes for 50 yards.
“I liked our rushing offensively,” East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill said. “We were able to pound the rock a little bit and have a good mixture for this offense.”
The Pirates took a 7-0 lead after Josh Smith recovered a Memphis fumble on its second play of the game giving the ECU offense the ball at the Memphis 12, which led to a Davis 9-yard TD pass to Giavani Ruffin.
Things didn’t get much better for the Tigers (0-2, 0-1) as sophomore quarterback Cannon Smith was picked off by ECU safety Derek Blacknall, who returned it 46 yards to give the Pirates a 14-0 lead.
After surrendering a 38-yard field goal to Memphis, the Pirates retaliated with a 75-yard scoring drive that ended with Davis hitting Harris on a 5-yard TD pass.
On the ensuing Memphis possession, the East Carolina defense forced its third turnover of the game as Matt Thompson recovered a Jerrell Rhodes fumble at the Tigers’ 24-yard line. Four plays later Williams rumbled into the end zone from two yards out to put ECU up 28-3 with :23 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers yanked Smith by the end of the quarter in favor of freshman Ryan Williams. The rookie had his moments as he went 18-for-25 for 293 yards and three touchdowns. Smith, the son of FedEx founder and CEO Fred Smith, finished the day 3-for-6 with an INT for only 19 yards.
Defensively, Pirates’ linebacker Dustin Lineback led the charge as he racked up 13 tackles and recorded 1.5 of the Pirates’ four sacks.
“We had a short week of preparation but coach (defensive coordinator Brian) Mitchell took us in (the defensive meeting room) and challenged us,” Lineback said. “He told us 49 points (against Tulsa) was unacceptable. I think last week we had 30 missed assignments. He gave us the challenge and we stepped up. … We still gave up some points and we’re not happy with that, but if you take away three big plays the would still have only three points.
East Carolina got solid play from its defensive line as the defense allowed only 101 rushing yards as it saw the return of tackles Antonio Allison (ankle) and Michael Brooks (knee).
Brooks, a sophomore who tore his ACL in March, played his first game since the Liberty Bowl and recorded four tackles and was credited with half of a sack in his return.
“It felt great, I haven’t been out there in a while,” Brooks said of his return. “It felt good just have my legs back under me and make a couple of plays. … I tweaked it a little bit during the game but I’m fine.”
Brooks did not get through his first game completely unscathed though. The sophomore tackle broke a finger on his first defensive series but said he will be able to play in next week’s game at Virginia Tech.
In the second quarter Memphis scored its first TD of the game as Williams hit running back Gregory Ray for a 32-yard score to make it a 28-10 ball game.
East Carolina answered as Davis led his team on a scoring drive which ended with him plunging into the end zone from two yards out to take a 35-10 lead.
Davis scored the Pirates only touchdown in the third quarter when he danced through the Tigers’ defense on an 8-yard keeper which game them a 42-17 lead.
The ECU scoring ended when Davis hit junior Michael Bowman for a 5-yard scoring pass, which was the first of his college career.