Miners bury Pirates

Published 11:31 pm Saturday, November 12, 2011

A big UTEP defensive stand may prove to stand in the way of East Carolina’s bowl eligibility as the Pirates fell 22-17 to the Miners on a windy Saturday night in Texas. Down five points with 2:49 left to go in the fourth quarter the Pirates had the ball at their own 32-yard line and needed to go the full length of the field but never made it past the 50 as quarterback Dominique Davis threw his second interception of the game to end ECU’s hopes of comeback. With the loss, the Pirates fall to 4-6 (3-3) on the season and need to win their final two games of the year to qualify for bowl eligibility. Without leading receiver Lance Lewis, leading rusher Reggie Bullock and RT Grant Harner, the ECU offense struggle as Davis finished the game 18-for-34 for 131 yards with one TD pass and two interceptions, the first of which was returned for a score. East Carolina amassed 256 yards of total offense, while the Miners racked up 440. The Pirates got on the board first when they strung together a 99-yard drive that chewed up over six minutes and was completed when Michael Dobson plunged into the end zone at the 4:40 mark in the first quarter. UTEP (5-5, 2-4) responded early in the second quarter when it intercepted a Davis pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. The Miners failed to tie the game when kicker Dakota Warren missed the extra point. The interception return for a touchdown was the third allowed by the Pirates in two games. The UTEP offense would provide the next score when Leilyon Myers rushed up the middle for 2-yard TD run to put his team ahead 13-7 midway through the second quarter. The Miners added to that lead right before halftime as they drove all the way from their own 1-yard line to the ECU 31 where Steven Valdez booted a 46-yard field goal to go up 16-7 with 33 seconds to go before the break. In the third quarter East Carolina took a chunk out of UTEP’s lead when Justin Hardy caught a Davis pass at the Miners’ 3-yard line and spun around and stuck the ball over the right pylon to cut the deficit to 16-14. East Carolina reclaimed the lead later that quarter after the defense came up with a big fourth down stand to give the offense the ball back at their own 32. From there, the Pirates drove all the way to the 2-yard line but where forced to settle for a 19-yard Michael Barbour field goal to go ahead 17-16 with 1:09 to play in the quarter. In the fourth quarter the ECU defense came up big again as UTEP got within scoring range when corner Emanuel Davis forced receiver Mike Davis to fumble and the Pirates recovered it on their own 12. East Carolina could not convert that opportunity into points and was forced to punt back to UTEP, who would not fail to get into the end zone this time as running back Joe Banyard blew through the Pirates defense for a 78-yard game-winning touchdown run.