Published 8:20 pm Monday, October 24, 2011
GREENVILLE — After three straight road games, the Pirates head back to Greenville for their homecoming showdown with Tulane with a boatload of momentum after topping Navy in a 38-35 thriller to win their second straight game.
East Carolina (3-4, 2-1) exorcized the demons of last year’s loss to the Midshipmen thanks to a record-setting performance by senior quarterback Dominique Davis, who completed his first 26 passes of the game to establish a new NCAA mark.
Davis would finish the game hitting on 40 of his 45 attempts for 372 yards and two touchdowns and did not throw an interception for the second straight contest, that effort led to the Pirates’ QB being named the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week.
While Davis’ feat was incredible, ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill praised the effort of his offensive line for allowing Davis time to make all those completions.
“Dominique, I know got a lot of credit after the game for setting some records but the offensive line, when you watch the film, was the key,” McNeill said. “All year long that was a group that we had to have develop.”
Aside from solid line play, the Pirates also benefited from a little late luck. Trailing 38-35 with under a minute left in the game, Navy appeared to score the game-winning touchdown when Trey Miller fired the ball to Matt Aiken near the left side of the end zone. Aiken appeared to make the catch but lost control of the ball upon hitting the ground, and after an official review, the play was ruled an incomplete.
Needless to say, McNeill agreed with the call.
“He didn’t bring it into his body, It was no good,” McNeill said. “You have to tuck it, that’s what the rule says. … It was a tough call but they reviewed and I thought they made the correct call.”
After the incomplete, Navy still had a chance to send the game into overtime as kicker John Teague lined up for a 42-yard field goal, but the kicker’s attempt sailed right and hit off the upright to hand ECU it’s second straight victory.
McNeill said had the kick been good he and his team were prepared for overtime.
“You always think ahead a little bit to if they did make it,” McNeill said. “I felt the atmosphere on our sideline and attitude was that ‘we’re not going to lose the game.’
East Carolina’s defense, which let up 521 rushing yards to the Midshipmen a year a go, stood up to the test of their triple-option offense this time around as it yielded 284 rushing yards on Saturday and had eight tackles for a loss and one sack.
While Navy’s grouind attack was slowed down, ECU’s kicked up a notch as it got a strong performance by Reggie Bullock who came off the bench to rush 26 times for 104 yards and three touchdowns, with his last score proving to be the game-winner.
Once again, McNeill heaped the praise of the successful ground game to the big boys up front.
“It goes back to that five-man unit up front,” McNeill said. “Those guys established themselves all game long … it was a pounding. The last drive (offensive coordinator) Lincoln (Riley) ran it right at them.
“Reggie was hurt, (RB) Torrance (Hunt) was out and (RB) Michael Dobson got hurt the last week versus Memphis, so our one backup was (H-Back) Zico (Pasut). It was great to be able to control the football and it starts with the offensive line.”
Hunt (ankle) is listed for Saturday’s game as ‘probable,’ along with NG Terry Williams (concussion). Defensive end Derrell Johnson (leg) and center Doug Polochak (knee) are both listed as ‘questionable.’ However, Polochak and Johnson are both listed on this week’s depth chart.
Freshman WR Justin Hardy injured his knee on Thursday at practice and did not play versus Navy. Hardy, the team’s second-leading receiver with 41 catches for 436 yards, is listed as ‘out’ and is joined on that list with LG Adhem Elsawi (knee) and WR Justin Jones (wrist).
While East Carolina rides into its homecoming game with two wins and some luck tucked under its belt, Tulane arrives for the matchup in the opposite situation. Last Tuesday, head coach Bob Toledo retired, and turned over over the reigns to interim head coach Mark Hutson. On Saturday, Hutson lost is debut to a lowly Memphis team that had not won a Conference USA game in over a year.