GREENVILLE — East Carolina works on 2-point conversions at the start of practice on Tuesdays in a drill called “Five Shots.”
“It’s good on good, offense and defense,” said Pirates coach Mike Houston after a 47-45 American Athletic Conference win over Memphis in four overtimes. “We started doing that because of the new overtime rules.”
As the combatants progressed through the overtimes, each scored a touchdown and got a conversion kick in the first extra session. Required to go for two after scoring a TD in the second OT, ECU threw incomplete, and Chad Stephens stopped a run play by the Tigers.
The new rules call for 2-point conversion attempts starting at the 3-yard line in the third overtime. Memphis went up, 45-43, on a pass from Seth Henigan to Joe Scates before Keaton Mitchell caught a pass to the right and cut past a defender to tie the score at 45.
Holton Ahlers found his former D.H. Conley teammate, C.J. Johnson, for two points in the fourth overtime before Henigan threw incomplete under pressure to end the game.
It was the most overtimes ever played by a Pirates football team, and it allowed ECU (4-3, 2-2 AAC) to enhance its bowl prospects with an overtime win over the Tigers (4-3, 2-2) for the second straight season.
ECU was coming off a 24-9 loss at Tulane.
“There’s been a ton of doubters,” Houston said after the Pirates improved to 55-12 in Homecoming games. “The Pirates bowed their backs and won a big ball game tonight.”
ECU leads the series with Memphis, 17-8, and is 3-0 in Homecoming games against the Tigers.
From a 17-0 deficit, ECU pulled even at 20 on a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown by Julius Wood and a conversion kick by Andrew Conrad with 5:28 left in the third quarter.
Jeremy Lewis made a 3-yard tackle for loss on a 3rd-and-5 at the Memphis 43 on the Tigers’ possession following the tying TD.
A 22-yard field goal by Andrew Conrad gave ECU a 23-20 lead with 7:52 left to play, but Memphis pulled even on Chris Howard’s 46-yard boot with 5:30 to go.
The Pirates went up 30-23 when Mitchell scored on a 1-yard run with 1:45 remaining, but the Tigers again got a tying tally on a 13-yard pass to Scates with 19 seconds left.
The Pirates found themselves in the 17-0 hole after a 7-yard touchdown pass from Henigan to Eddie Lewis with 5:45 left in the first half. The score came after a fake punt attempt by ECU gave the Tigers the ball at the Pirates’ 40-yard line.
ECU drove 75 yards for its first points on a 3-yard keeper by Holton Ahlers with 1:36 left in the half. Conrad kicked the first extra point of his career to cut the Memphis lead to 17-7. The big gainer on the series was a pass play covering 28 yards from Ahlers to Isaiah Winstead that put the ball at the Memphis 47.
The Pirates scored again after an interception by Malik Fleming at the Tigers’ 46-yard line and a 30-yard return to the Memphis 16. ECU drew within 17-13 on a 16-yard pass from Ahlers to Winstead with 43 seconds left in the half.
ECU failed on its sixth point after try this season as the snap sailed through the hands of holder Luke Larsen. Conrad replaced Owen Daffer as placekicker this week.
The Tigers settled for a 23-yard field goal by Howard and a 20-13 lead with 9:06 left in the third quarter after driving from their 25 for a 1st-and-goal at the ECU 4.
Memphis scored first on a 4-yard run by Asa Martin with 6:37 left in the first quarter. The touchdown completed a 6-play drive that covered 80 yards after ECU moved from its 12 to its 44 on the game’s first possession.
Completions of 23 and 30 yards from Holton Ahlers to Isaiah Winstead helped the Pirates drive as far as the Memphis 2-yard line on ECU’s second series. The Pirates went for a 4th-and-goal at the Memphis 3, but a fade pass to Winstead in the left corner of the end zone was incomplete.
The Tigers extended their lead to 10-0 on a 40-yard field goal by Howard with 12:57 left in the first half.
Henigan completed 27 of 37 for 407 yards with two TDs but the two picks that the Pirates cashed in for 13 points proved huge. The Tigers had 491 total yards as Caiden Prieskorn had six catches for 104 yards and Scates had five receptions for 112 yards.
Ahlers completed 24 of 34 for 304 yards and one TD. Mitchell ran 29 times for 149 yards with three scores and had four catches for 28 yards.
Winstead had 154 yards on nine receptions and Ryan Jones made four grabs for 54 yards.
The Pirates have some momentum to build on going into a home game on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with Central Florida (5-1, 2-0).
“We’re going to watch the film on this and after we’re done, it’s on to UCF,” Ahlers said. “(Sunday), we’re going to be practicing for UCF against the scouts.”
The Knights are coming off a 70-13 win at home over Temple on Thursday night.