GREENVILLE — Houston used East Carolina as a springboard to the Big 12 Conference with a 42-3 triumph over the Pirates on Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in the final American Athletic Conference contest in football between the two.
Who saw this coming? The oddsmakers missed badly, making ECU a 6-point favorite. The Pirate seniors certainly were geared up to go out in better fashion in their last home game. The ECU coaches had reason to be encouraged after outgaining Cincinnati in total yards, 454-310, in a 27-25 road loss last week.
There was a healthy crowd of 42,475 on hand, most expecting the purple and gold to shine in the first home game in the afternoon since the season opener against N.C. State. Houston’s 31-24 overtime win at home over ECU last season indicated competitive balance between the combatants.
So, what happened?
Senior linebacker Myles Berry of the Pirates may have had the best explanation.
“I’m not going to say it was surprising,” Berry said. “I’m just going to say that Clayton Tune (Cougar senior quarterback) did a really good job and Houston did a really good job executing their offense. They found a lot of gaps in our defense, especially passing the ball.
“Hats off to them. We just have to come back better. Fix mistakes. Come back (Sunday), watch the film, fix our mistakes and get ready for Temple.”
Houston (7-4, 5-2 AAC) led the rest of the way after Tune found Nathaniel Dell on the Cougars’ first series for a 12-yard score with 10:23 left in the first quarter.
Tune orchestrated masterfully, completing 32 of 44 for 435 yards and four touchdowns. Juan Powell nicked him with a first-quarter pick at the ECU 17 and Holton Ahlers hit Jsi Hatfield for 55 yards on the next snap, but the opportunity fizzled with a fourth down incompletion at the Houston 26.
Possession downs were a problem for the Pirates, who were 3 of 14 on third down conversions and 0 for 4 on fourth downs.
Keaton Mitchell managed 128 yards on 14 carries to provide a bright spot for the Pirates, who remarkably did not have a turnover or a penalty.
“I hate that we didn’t win for our seniors,” summarized ECU coach Mike Houston, who took responsibility for the Pirates’ mystifying mediocrity. “Very disappointed in our performance. Just out of sync, especially on the offensive side of the ball there early. … Houston is a very talented ball club. Tune and Dell and company played very well.”
Dell had nine catches for 176 yards and teammate Matthew Golden had eight receptions for 127 yards.
Down 21-0 at the half, ECU sought to regroup.
“We just talked about being us,” said safety Gerard Stringer. “We weren’t doing that the first half, the whole game.”
Andrew Conrad prevented a shutout with a 21-yard field goal with 7:38 left in the third quarter, trimming the lead to 28-3.
The Pirates (6-5, 3-4 AAC) visit Temple (3-7, 1-5) on Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff to conclude the regular season. The game is scheduled to be shown on ESPN+.
Amazing what a difference a QB makes.
Steve C says
A QB with time to throw and a solid game plan to expose our secondary, yes. We had neither. UH didn’t need to send extra people to pressure HA & if you cannot block a defensive line, watch out.
That’s when a quick release with accuracy talent shows up.
Wow! Total beat down. The defense was totally exposed and the final score should have been worse. Thank God, Mr. Tune wasn’t perfect, or Houston would have hung 60 on the Pirates.
KM was the only bright spot, many times making plus yardage out of nothing.
The passing philosophy was puzzling, always throwing long to receivers who had little to no separation. Why not take the nickel and dime stuff to make first downs and keep the ball from a superior Houston offense.
Maybe the Cincy game took the fight out of the team. This was a total failure but for KM’s effort.
Let’s hope the Pirates can regroup, and quickly!
Disappointed We are better than that says
I agree about the passing. Don’t have all the details I assume we had but can someone who is close suggests or at least ask about routes that cross and attack the middle of the field more??!! We seem to always be throwing to a boundary and those are difficult and actually give the defenders an advantage as I see it with the sideline. Sidelines Never miss tackles!!!
Irish Spectre says
“…always throwing long to receivers who had little to no separation.” This was a significant problem vs. Cinn. last week also; it looks like the lesson wasn’t learned.
Yesterday overall was a troubling head-scratcher, a regression in which the whole team except for KM laid an egg in a game that, had they won, and assuming a W vs. Temple, would likely have put ECU into a bowl with a decent opponent, but that won’t happen now, a W next week or not, and after yesterday, a W cannot be assumed.
Of many troubling aspects to the game, one of the them, though subtle, was Garcia not looking particularly good. Obviously a few snaps only say very little, but as the future of the program, and as a 3-star recruit who has already been around for a little while, it’s not unreasonable to have hoped that he’d have looked a little more comfortable under center than he did.
Whereas ECU undoubtedly expected to improve on last season, the best that they can do now is equal last season’s regular season record. Hopefully they can still bring some consolation by winning the two games remaining, but now I’m also asking if there should be concern about KM’s longevity as a Pirate.
I was just getting over pneumonia but felt I had to see this game. I knew that Houston had a good team. but felt that we had a good chance to win. What I saw was a good old fashion butt-kicking. It appears that they came to play – we were not ready. I pray that we can beat Temple. GOOO…PPIRATES!!