East Carolina University’s football team (2-8, 1-5 AAC) showed valiant effort and clawed its way into overtime, but couldn't finish the deal and fell to Tulane University, 31-24.
This was the first overtime for ECU since 2013, which also came against Tulane, and things got off to a tough start. The Pirates forced the Green Wave into a fourth-and-one situation and appeared to have forced Tulane (4-6, 2-4 AAC) into a field goal situation, but it elected to go for the first down conversion. Tulane quarterback Jonathan Banks faked the handoff and scampered 16-yards around the left side, walking into the end zone untouched to give Tulane the lead in the extra frame. Needing a touchdown and the extra point to extend the game to a second overtime frame, the Pirates’ offense went to work.
ECU running back Hussein Howe broke off two strong runs that carried the team down to the seven yard line in just two plays. Then, after a pass interference call, ECU had four cracks to get just three yards. After two one-yard runs and an incomplete pass, it was fourth down from inside the one-yard line with the game on the line. ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery and offensive coordinator Tony Peterson dialed up a handoff to running back Darius Pinnix right up the middle, but he failed to gain the yard and the game ended in true heartbreaking fashion.
"We trust Darius. We practice these goal line situations, of course, and Darius is the guy," ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery said. "We thought we had it game ready and I have to look at it on tape to see exactly what went on in there but we have to be able to get half a yard."
The Pirates defense was the story of the game after causing three turnovers, two on back-to-back drives that set the ECU offense up inside the Tulane 30-yard line. However, Gardner Minshew, who shouldered the load of quarterback this game, and the rest of the offense failed to move the ball on either occasion and had to settle for just three points. The Pirates trailed 24-17 with just over 10 minutes remaining.
"We were able to get some major turnovers in the second half and our defense needed that feeling," Montgomery said. "Offensively, I didn't feel like we played particularly well throughout the game."
The offense started well when it was faced with having to drive 89-yards to tie the game and just two minutes and 40 seconds to do so. A 17-yard catch from wide receiver Deondre Farrier on the first play of the drive got the Pirates out of the shadow of their own goal line. Then the Pirates used a bunch of short gains to methodically march down Dowdy-Ficklen and reached Tulane's 19-yard line but faced a crucial fourth down again with just one minute remaining.
Needing just five yards, the Pirates called another passing play. Wide receiver Jimmy Williams struggled to run his route, battling a serious ankle injury that's been nagging the captain for weeks now, falling down twice on the route but managed to snag Minshew's pass for his longest catch of the game: 10 yards and a first down. After a long review, the play was confirmed and on the very next play, Minshew hit Farrier from nine yards away for a shoe-string touchdown to tie the game.
"They both made great plays," Minshew said. "Jimmy's catch, man, that was unreal. Then Deondre ran an incredible route and made a tough catch in the corner of the end zone and ran into the bushes. I was really glad for those guys to make plays."
Tulane was able to come out with the victory behind it's run game. The Green Wave entered the game averaging 235 rushing yards per game, but eclipsed that by almost 100 yards, totaling 325 on the night. Running back Dontrell Hilliard ran for 189 yards on 28 carries, finding the end zone on twice. Howe did his best to establish a rushing attack for the Pirates, running for 108 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first Pirate with 100 rushing yards this season.
The biggest problem was how easily the Green Wave rushers were reaching the second level. The defensive lineman and linebackers for the Pirates were getting dominated at the point of attack, leaving it up to Korrin Wiggins and the secondary to make all the tackles. Wiggins ended up leading all tacklers with 14 total, nine solo.
"They do a lot of motions and try and play with your eyes," Wiggins said. "You have to be very disciplined to play this team and that was pretty much the hardest thing to prepare for."
ECU will play its final home game of the season next Saturday against the University of Cincinnati (3-7, 1-5 AAC) at noon. Players such as Bobby Fulp, Jordan Williams, Jimmy Williams and others will be playing their final game at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium come senior night.