East Carolina was scoreless for the final 43 minutes in a 24-9 American Athletic Conference loss at Tulane on Saturday.
The Green Wave (5-1, 2-0 AAC) is yielding just 13.3 points per game. ECU (3-3, 1-2) outscored Tulane, 52-29, in Greenville last season but couldn’t produce an offensive encore at Yulman Stadium.
“They did a great job defensively of showing us a lot of different coverages and keeping things underneath, and running and tackling,” said Pirates coach Mike Houston. “They didn’t make the big mistakes. I thought we made critical errors at critical times. A mistake here, a mistake there, that if we don’t make it, it changes the game.”
The Pirates had a touchdown nullified on their second possession for having an ineligible receiver downfield and had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Owen Daffer for 3-0 lead with 3:04 to go in the first quarter.
ECU made a third-down stop at its 3-yard line, but a personal foul penalty gave the hosts a first down and Michael Pratt passed to Tyrick James two plays later for a 3-yard touchdown that provided a 7-3 lead for the Wave early in the second quarter.
The Pirates answered quickly with a 24-yard scoring pass from Holton Ahlers to C.J. Johnson that put ECU ahead, but Daffer’s conversion attempt bounced off the right goal post and left the ECU advantage at 9-7 with 12:08 remaining in the half.
Tulane converted a 3rd-and-7 from its own 10 in a 93-yard drive that provided a 14-9 lead with 4:12 left in the half on a 1-yard keeper by Pratt.
Daffer had a 46-yard field goal attempt blocked as the first half expired.
ECU was within 14-9 with a first down at the Wave 24 when Ahlers was intercepted in the end zone by Larry Brooks with 4:08 to go in the third quarter.
Two plays later, the Wave extended its lead to 21-9 on a 44-yard TD pass from Pratt to Duece Watts.
Ahlers was picked off again at the Tulane 46 by Macon Clark with 8:54 left in the game. That possession led to a 42-yard field goal by Valentino Ambrosio.
The 8-point swing on the first-half penalties and Tulane’s 10 points after ECU turnovers were enough to decide the outcome even though the Pirates led, 419-391, in total yards and first downs, 24-21.
ECU led 141-57 in fourth quarter yardage.
Ahlers completed 32 of 51 for 288 yards with nine passes for 90 yards going to Isaiah Winstead. True freshman Marlon Gunn Jr. returned to his home state and led the Pirates’ rushing with seven carries for 67 yards.
Keaton Mitchell was back for ECU after missing last week’s 48-28 road win over South Florida. Mitchell ran 10 times for 47 yards and had eight catches for 54 yards.
ECU had a 131-41 lead in rushing yards, but Pratt completed 27 of 34 for 326 yards with two TDs and the Wave played without a turnover.
Defensive lineman Immanuel Hickman, corner Malik Fleming, linebacker Xavier Smith and safety Gerard Stringer sustained injuries, which could impact a home game with Memphis on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU). Mitchell was not 100 percent and Gunn incurred a minor ailment. Receiver Jaylen Johnson was out Saturday.
The loss at Tulane was the most decisive of the season for ECU after previous setbacks at home against N.C. State (21-20) and Navy (23-20 in double overtime).
The Tigers are coming off a 33-32 home loss to Houston after leading, 32-19, with less than two minutes to go. The Cougars sandwiched two TDs around a successful onside kick to drop Memphis to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in league play.
“Memphis is a very good football team,” Houston said. “I watched them last night. … Another tough one.”
Irish Spectre says
The ECU defensive line showed up. Otherwise, yesterday’s performance begs the question whether the OT loss to Navy was a fluke, which I’d previously thought.
We clearly have a problem in the kicking game. It’s not just one thing. Sure, Daffer has had his problems. Still, we know that he can do the job. His confidence must be shaken somewhat, but I wonder if some of it is due to his lack of confidence in the snap/hold/ kick process. Coach Huston told the tv crew the blocked field goal was due to a problem with “cadence”. Apparently, the signal caller (assuming it’s the holder) lost his cool. Previous problems involved proper placement of the laces, and improper blocking. Some of these problems shouldn’t be happening five games into the season.
The d-line did perform well enough, however, the secondary seldom contested Tulane receivers on 3rd down. And, a stupid penalty cancelled out another goal line stand.
Ahlers continues to force passes unnecessarily. He knows better, throwing late down the middle into Tulane’s strength. The wheel route in the left flat was completely uncontested. It’s almost as if he lost patience with the short yardage game that took them down the field.
By far, this is the worst performance as a team this year. Yet, also apparent on Saturday, is how far the Pirates have come under Coach Huston. They don’t quit. Hopefully, the problems are “fixable”. A solid season is still for the taking.
Irish Spectre says
The d-line looked really good; otherwise, with the exception of a couple of very solid individual performances, it was a poor showing in general.
As far as the kicking’s concerned, they may be at a point where Houston has to consider attempting the conversion after every TD; a 40% success rate would be no worse than where they are now.
Based on the way this season has gone, I see only a single “should win” game remaining, their last vs. Temple. ECU is the dog in all of the other 5 remaining contests, and the injuries sustained yesterday only exacerbate matters; 2 out of those 5 to be bowl eligible (assuming a Temple W) is very possible, yet a tall order.
Fortunately they’ll have home cooking next Sat. night. If they cannot find a way vs. Memphis, and HA is not “on”, then you have to wonder if Garcia starts to factor into the calculus. I THINK (not sure) that he could see time in 4 games, and still preserve 3 years of eligibility. I like and respect HA, and know what he can do when he’s on, but the program needs to come first.