PROVO. UT — East Carolina’s kicking game has had some significant struggles this season, but it produced a 27-24 nonconference win at Brigham Young on Friday night.
Freshman Andrew Conrad hit a 33-yard field goal as time expired to make the Pirates bowl eligible for the second straight season.
Conrad’s second 3-pointer of the game was wobbly.
“That may be the ugliest game-winning field goal in history,” said ECU coach Mike Houston after his 100th career win. “But it doesn’t matter, it went through the uprights.”
The Pirates (6-3) won their third straight after taking possession at their own 38 with 2:26 left to play after forcing the Cougars (4-5) to punt. ECU went for a 4th-and-8 at the BYU 37 and picked up a first down at the Cougars’ 22-yard line on a pass interference penalty.
“It could have backfired on us,” Houston said. “But I just thought, we’re going to try to win the ball game right here.”
After a 4-yard gain by Marlon Gunn Jr., Conrad stayed ready through three timeouts by kicking into a net on the sideline. Holder/punter Luke Larsen had a conference with Houston before Conrad ended the suspense for a crowd of 55,525 at Lavell Edwards Stadium and a audience on ESPN2.
Each team made fourth-down stops during a scoreless fourth quarter.
“An inch here and an inch there,” said Houston of the competitiveness of the contest throughout.
The Cougars got on the board first with a 36-yard field goal by Jake Oldroyd with 8:23 left in the first quarter. ECU went ahead, 7-3, on a 31-yard scoring run by Keaton Mitchell with 6:29 to go in the first.
Early in the second quarter, BYU moved in front, 10-7, on a 24-yard TD by Lupini Kotoa.
Conrad kicked a 23-yarder that tied the score at 10 with 9:35 left in the first half.
Jaren Hall hit Puka Nacua for a TD covering 30 yards with 6:01 left in the half for a 17-10 BYU lead.
The Pirates tied the score at 17 with 2:42 remaining in the half on a 1-yard keeper by Holton Ahlers. The series included a 26-yard completion to C.J. Johnson and a 21-yard carry by Mitchell.
The Cougars took a 24-17 lead on a 2-yard pass from Hall to Chase Roberts before ECU pulled even at 24 with 7:07 showing in the third on a 4-yard keeper by Ahlers.
The Pirates had a 424-388 lead in total yards as Ahlers completed 15 of 22 passes for 197 yards with no interceptions.
Mitchell ran 21 times for 176 yards. Isaiah Winstead had five catches for 63 yards. Johnson’s five receptions totaled 63 yards. Jsi Hatfield had two catches for 60 yards.
ECU has an open date before returning to American Athletic Conference play at Cincinatti on Friday, Nov. 11, at 8 p.m. (ESPN2).
“We’ve got a goal to get to the conference championship,” Mitchell said.
The Pirates are 3-2 in the AAC and are fifth in the league standings.
Did ANYONE watching the knuckleball as it barely cleared the d-line think it had a chance? How fitting an ending was that? Pirate Nation finally came out on the good side of a kick. We’ve seen enough duck hooks and wide-rights to know you take anything that gets through the uprights… and make no apologies for doing so.
This morning, I choose not to make comments on the ups and downs of the game, good and bad. Instead, I’m going to enjoy the fact that as I watched the game come down the final stretch, I saw a tired, stressed TEAM figure out a way to first; hang in to even have a chance, and second, close the deal. It wasn’t always pretty, but the effort/results were impressive.
Now the Pirates can take a deep breath, maybe take an extra 24 to enjoy this one, heal up, and then continue learning how to be the type of team Coach Houston envisioned. They’re getting close!!!
donald tyson says
Discipline……. Results in zero turnovers, 2 penalties 20yds, BYU 6 for 60 yds! We are second best in the country in fewest penalties. The result of changing the culture. These young men are holding each other accountable, trusting the coaches and each other and are free to fly around and play football. Good job coaches!!!
Great to see the continued growth of our proud program right before our eyes. This team and the program are truly now Coach Houston’s and they are playing and behaving like the team/program we all hoped we would get when he was hired. The football program had fallen so far, and had a huge hole to dig out of. It has been a tough and long road back with many ups and downs just to get back to being competitive, but we are now seeing the fruits of the staffs hard work and leadership. Keep up the good work Pirates!