GREENVILLE — There’s a first time for everything and for Tulane, which had never won at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in eight previous trips, that first time was Saturday night.
The Green Wave had to go overtime to top East Carolina 31-24.
The win not only ended Tulane’s long-running frustration in Greenville, it also stopped the Wave’s four-game losing streak this season.
The Pirates lost containment on Tulane quarterback Jonathan Banks on a 4th-and-1 at the ECU 16 on the first possession of the extra session and he ran into the end zone for what would prove to be the deciding points.
The Green Wave called time with the Pirates facing a 4th-and-1 of their own, this one at the Tulane 1-yard line. ECU tried to power ahead on a handoff from Gardner Minshew to freshman back Darrius Pinnix, but he was stopped short of the goal line. Robert Kennedy was credited with the tackle.
“Fourth and one, we wanted to give it to our big back and get behind our offensive line,” said Pirates coach Scottie Montgomery. “The offensive line did a great job to that point, running the ball inside zone. … It didn’t work. It had some misdirection to it with the ability to hand it off to the receiver. I liked what we did by handing it off to the back. We’ve just got to be able to go get a half a yard.”
ECU dropped to 2-8 overall and 1-5 in the American Athletic Conference with its closest loss of the season. The Pirates host Cincinnati (3-7, 1-5) at noon next Saturday. The Bearcats are coming off a 35-24 home loss to Temple.
ECU made an exciting comeback just to get the game into overtime as the visitors took a 24-14 lead into the fourth quarter.
Kiante Anderson recovered a fumble by Banks at the Tulane 17-yard line with 13:28 left to play. The Pirates, with Thomas Sirk at quarterback, got a 29-yard field goal from Jake Verity with 12:18 remaining to cut the deficit to 24-17.
The Pirates got an interception by freshman linebacker Aaron Ramseur with 10:50 left to start a possession at the Tulane 34. Ramseur fumbled after the pick but Tank Robinson recovered. The series was stopped on 4th-and-2 at the Green Wave 5-yard line as Minshew’s pass for tight end Stephen Baggett was broken up by Tulane’s Taris Shenall with 7:08 remaining.
The Wave moved from its 5 to the ECU 45 before punting to the ECU 11.
The tying series started with a 17-yard pass from Minshew to Deondre Farrier. A pass interference penalty on a 3rd-and-10 at the ECU 28 gave the Pirates a first down at their 36. ECU converted a 3rd-and-4 at its 42 with an 8-yard toss to Jimmy Williams at midfield.
Williams was not 100 percent, Montgomery said, but the Pirates needed him after Quay Johnson went out with an apparent knee injury.
Minshew hit Davon Grayson for gains of 8 and 18 yards to move the ball to the Tulane 24. On 4th-and-5 at the Wave 19, ECU picked up a first down with a 10-yard pass to Williams. The play was reviewed and confirmed.
Tulane (4-6, 2-4) took a timeout with 42 seconds left before Minshew found Farrier in the back left corner of the end zone at the field house end with 36 seconds left in regulation.
Jake Verity added the conversion kick.
Caleb Pratt put the ensuing kickoff into the end zone for a touchback. The Wave took a knee on the last snap of regulation.
ECU led 446 to 389 in total yardage, had a 3-1 advantage in takeaways and led 33:35 to 26:25 in possession time.
None of those statistical edges ultimately paid off on the scoreboard.
“We just take a lot of pain out of this one,” Montgomery said. ” … There’s no moral victories. We didn’t come out here tonight to play close and go to overtime. We came out here to win. We prepared to win and, unfortunately tonight, we did not. … All of the losses hurt. Every single one of them hurt like you could not imagine.”
Minshew started for the Pirates after setting school and American Athletic Conference records for completions (52) and attempts (68) while passing for 463 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in a 52-27 loss at Houston last week.
Minshew connected on 25 of 51 attempts for 228 yards with one score and one pick against Tulane. Sirk played sparingly, throwing one incomplete pass and running twice for a net of three yards.
Trevon Brown led ECU’s receivers with seven catches for 72 yards.
“There were different opportunities during the game to make plays and we didn’t,” Minshew said. “This one’s going to hurt because we were so close.”
Minshew had a close-range view of the play that ended the game.
“They got penetration up front and did a good job,” said the junior quarterback. “Coming up a foot short is tough.”
Hussein Howe ran 14 times for 108 yards with a touchdown from 25 yards out that tied the score at 14 with 6:13 left in the half.
“I’m proud of my team,” Howe said. “That two-minute offense that we put together to get into overtime, we work on that every day.”
Tulane never trailed, taking the lead on the game’s opening drive on a 2-yard keeper by Banks.
The Pirates drove 75 yards in 12 plays to tie the score at 7 on a 2-yard run by Pinnix with 3:09 left in the first quarter. A 26-yard field goal by Merek Glover gave the Wave a 17-14 lead at the half.
Dontrell Hilliard had scoring runs of 60 and 26 yards for Tulane. He had 189 yards on 28 carries.
Safety Korrin Wiggins, a graduate transfer from Clemson, had nine solo tackles and five assists for ECU. Jalen Price had an interception for the Pirates.
“We just tried to stay focused and execute the game plan,” Wiggins said. “Their quarterback made a play in overtime. … We lost our contain. We didn’t execute.”
A crowd of 36,178 was on hand at the outset but as the temperature dropped deeper into the 30s, many fans sought warmth elsewhere.
Those that stayed or those that watched on the CBS Sports Network saw a stirring comeback before the disappointing conclusion.