Pirates get sacked by Knights|RB Weaver gashes ECU for 180 yards

Published 2:23 am Sunday, October 31, 2010

By By ANTONIO GONZALEZ, Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. — That Conference USA crown East Carolina has held the past two seasons might be heading back south.
Ronnie Weaver had a career-high 180 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and Central Florida took a huge step toward a Conference USA title with a 49-35 victory over East Carolina on Saturday.
‘‘This is tremendous for our team,’’ Weaver said. ‘‘This is definitely toward the top.’’
Atop the conference, to be exact.
Latavius Murray ran for 47 yards and three touchdowns, freshman Jeff Godfrey threw for 159 yards and two scores and UCF found the end zone on its first four possessions. The Knights (6-2, 4-0) beat the Pirates for the first time in five years, are the only team still undefeated in league play and are already bowl eligible.
‘‘This is the biggest game of my career, and I’m pretty sure it’s probably the biggest win of everybody’s career on the team now,’’ Murray said.
It was a dominant offensive performance by the Knights in every way.
They didn’t punt the entire game — the first time since 1998 they didn’t punt in a game — and racked up 424 total yards. The usually high-scoring Pirates offense finally met a team it couldn’t keep up with.
Dominique Davis threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns with one interception, leading a late East Carolina comeback that came up short. The two-time defending conference champion Pirates (5-3, 4-1) will need — at the very least — to win out and hope UCF loses twice to represent the East Division in the conference title game.
‘‘It’s out of our hands, but we’re going to finish the season strong and see if somebody can help us,’’ Davis said.
The stakes were as high as they get in Conference USA.
It was a meeting of the last three conference champions in what will likely turn out to be an elimination game in the East Division. The Pirates had won 10 straight against league opponents — including last season’s win against Houston in the title game — but now new coach Ruffin McNeill and East Carolina are in a big deficit.
‘‘If I read the schedule right, we’ve still got some football to play,’’ McNeill said. ‘‘We’ve got to keep on playing. Our season is not over yet.’’
At the very least, a former walk-on put a big dent in it.
Weaver bulldozed his way at will against a spotty East Carolina defense, finding endless seams and space. His 9-yard touchdown run early in the fourth put UCF ahead 42-21 to the victory.
Sweet redemption for a player who didn’t even have a scholarship out of high school by any Division I school. He walked on at UCF in 2007, later earned a scholarship and won the starting job this season.
‘‘The water caddy was my friend today,’’ said Weaver, a little winded after all the runs.
There was plenty more dazzling moves in this one.
On the opening play of UCF’s second possession, Godfrey was pressured and forced backward, then shook off a defender, sidestepped left and heaved a pass to the back of the end zone to Kamar Aiken for a 40-yard touchdown. The score put the Knights ahead 14-0 early in the first quarter.
The Pirates came back on the next possession with some of their own tricks.
Davis faked a throw with his right hand and handed the ball off with his left to Dwayne Harris, who sprinted through the middle for a 49-yard run that setup East Carolina’s first touchdown.
The Knights took a 28-14 lead at the half after a 1-yard touchdown run by Weaver on fourth down. Even some of the home fans began pouring out of the stadium as if it was over.
Well, just about.
The Pirates recovered a late onside kick and but were down two touchdowns. They moved the ball to the Knights’ 15-yard line before turning it over on downs.
Now its the Knights who have won 10 straight regular-season conference games. They’re are off to their best start since 1998 — Daunte Culpepper’s senior season — and are the front-runner to host the league title game.
‘‘Our goal is the conference championship,’’ UCF coach George O’Leary said. ‘‘That’s the goal that we set early and that’s the only goal that we talk about.’’