GREENVILLE — Needing a win for confidence and momentum going into the start of the American Athletic Conference schedule, East Carolina put together a thorough 44-0 victory over Gardner-Webb on Saturday night.
The Pirates recorded their first shutout since a season-starting 38-0 win at Duke in 2000. The Bulldogs were limited to 107 total yards, the fewest by an ECU opponent since Marshall in 1978.
The 6 p.m. kickoff was preceded by a day of rain that dumped almost five inches on Bagwell Field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Showers during the game had an effect on play as well as Gardner-Webb had eight fumbles, five of which were recovered by the Pirates.
“Conditions were really, really bad out there,” said ECU coach Mike Houston on the Pirate radio network. “The ball was very slick all night. We handled the weather really well offensively and special teams-wise. You saw what happened on the other side and they didn’t handle it very well. It really fell apart on them.
“I thought that was the key to the game. We talked about that this morning — whoever handled the ball the best tonight in the wet conditions would be the team that won.”
The five takeaways were the most by the Pirates since they generated seven in a 31-28 home win over No. 22 Texas Christian in 2002.
ECU had one fumble and lost it.
Alex Flinn started at quarterback for the Pirates and completed two passes to Jsi Hatfield for 35 and 12 yards to get the initial scoring drive started. Flinn connected with Rahjai Harris on a pass play covering 19 yards to put the Pirates ahead to stay with 9:18 left in the first quarter.
A 15-yard punt by the visitors led to ECU’s second score on a 2-yard carry by Harris with 2:28 left in the first quarter. Flinn had a pass to Chase Sowell for 16 yards on the 45-yard drive that provided a 13-0 lead/
Flinn completed eight of 18 passes for 94 yards with one score and no interceptions.
“That was a big point of emphasis throughout this whole week,” Flinn said after throwing three passes that were picked off in a 43-28 loss at Appalachian State in Week Three. “You play better whenever you don’t have those turnovers. That’s a good testament to the receivers, the running backs and the O-line. Everybody had a big part in that.”
After Andrew Conrad kicked a 44-yard field goal early in the second quarter, the Bulldogs lost a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. The Pirates brought in Mason Garcia at quarterback and he scored on a 2-yard keeper for a 23-0 lead that stood at halftime.
Garcia completed nine of 12 for 89 yards without a score or a pick.
“He went in and managed the game very well,” said Houston of Garcia. “We wanted to run the quarterback just with the way the weather was going. I liked the throws he made on some of the RPOs (run pass options). I thought he played very well.”
UNC transfer Kamarro Edmonds scored on runs of 11 yards and one yard in the second half. True freshman Javious Bond had a 5-yard TD carry in the fourth quarter.
“Kamarro has had a good preseason and he’s had a good beginning of the year,” Houston said. “It’s just that that room has been so deep. Marlon (Gunn Jr.) tweaked his hamstring during the week so we just held him tonight. Gerald (Green) tweaked his ankle tonight so you look up and it’s next man up and it’s Kamarro. He’s been practicing well.
“You need a lot of running backs. It’s a long season. We want to get Pop (Joseph McKay) back. I’m glad we’ve got that depth in that room.”
Bond had nine carries for 65 yards and Harris totaled 64 yards on 16 totes.
ECU had 184 yards passing and 182 yards rushing. Jaylen Johnson had six catches for 70 yards.
Linebacker Teylor Jackson had the most solo tackles in the Pirates’ first win with seven.
ECU (1-3) travels to Rice (2-2) for a kickoff on Saturday at 7 p.m. (ESPN+) in the AAC opener for the Pirates. The Owls began league play with a 47-29 road loss to South Florida on Saturday.