ECU swept aside by Green Wave, loses bowl eligibility

Published 7:45 pm Sunday, November 11, 2018

NEW ORLEANS — East Carolina abandoned the run game and allowed three touchdowns of more than 70 yards to lose to Tulane, 24-18, on Saturday and eliminate itself from postseason eligibility.

After getting a fourth-and-1 stop, thanks to defensive back Davondre Robinson, and scoring a field goal on its only red zone appearance on its opening drive, ECU (2-7, 0-6 American Athletic Conference) never regained the lead and found itself in familiar territory of trying to come from behind to win. After Jake Verity’s 46-yard field goal, Tulane (5-5, 4-2 AAC) had one more three-and-out before using just two plays on its next possession for quarterback Justin McMillan to throw an 86-yard TD pass to wide receiver Darnell Mooney. Mooney’s TD was the longest play the Pirates have allowed all season and his 217 yards from scrimmage are the most ECU has given up to an opposing receiver since Houston’s James Cleveland (241) in 2009.

After the 86-yard pass play, the Green Wave reached the end zone again in similar fashion, as Terren Encalade scored on 73-yard reception, his only catch of the game, to extend Tulane’s lead to 14-3.

Not to be outdone however, ECU receiver Trevon Brown caught an 80-yard TD of his own on a two-play Pirate drive with 2:31 remaining in the half. After ECU failed to come out of the halftime break and put points on the board, the Green Wave used its very first offensive play of the second half to extend its lead to 11. McMillan hit Mooney on a slant route and the receiver was off to the races for a 79-yard score.

Brown added the only other TD for the Pirates, as Holton Ahlers found him in the back of the end zone for a 31-yard score at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Despite the two TD catches, seemed to struggle hauling in balls all night. The senior dropped a potential TD near the end of the second quarter and caught just eight of his team-high 23 targets for 161 yards.

Making his first career start, receiver Tyler Snead joined Brown in the 100-yard club after bringing in five catches for 123 yards. In a game where Ahlers attempted 67 passes (a career-high), he connected on just 21 of them, as the Pirates were forced to punt 14 times.

The Pirates ran the ball just 26 times out of their 93 plays, with 16 rushes coming from Ahlers, leaving Hussein Howe, Darius Pinnix and Terrell Green to combine for 10 rushes; a formula dooming ECU from the beginning. Ahlers again was involved in a majority of the Pirates’ plays for the third consecutive game, as he accounted for 429 of ECU’s 450 yards in Saturday’s contest.

A few defensive players turned in good performances for ECU, as defensive end Nate Harvey tied the ECU single-season record for tackles for loss in one season (21). He had four total tackles, two solo and one for a loss. His 21 TFLs have accounted for 96 yards. Robinson also added 12 tackles on the day, making it his second straight game of having double-digit tackles. Marcus Holton Jr. and Jalen Price each also had a career-high of seven tackles each. The Pirates also had two sacks in the game to give them 29 for the season to go along with 95 TFLs.

ECU will be back in action next Saturday when it hosts Connecticut (1-9, 0-6 AAC) at 7 p.m. in a battle of the teams with the worst records in the conference.