SAN ANTONIO — Texas-San Antonio scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter in pulling away from East Carolina on Saturday for a 41-27 American Athletic Conference win at the Alamodome.
The Pirates had their highest scoring effort of the season against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent, but the defensive performance was in stark contrast to the effort in a 10-7 home loss to Charlotte the preceding week.
ECU slipped to 1-7 overall and 0-4 in the AAC.
Hopes for a bowl berth for a third straight season vanished as Frank Harris passed for 395 yards and four touchdowns for the Roadrunners (5-3, 4-0).
“They are very talented,” said ECU coach Mike Houston of UTSA on the Pirate radio network. “That’s the issue you have with them. You look at a couple of big plays and the thing that frustrates you is that it’s stuff that I expect us to make the play. The 69-yard run (Rocko Griffin) had was on a simple counter play. The linebacker misfit it. … We’ve made those plays all year.
“You can’t make those mistakes against a group that’s got those kinds of skill kids.”
UTSA had a 372-242 lead in total yards although Alex Flinn had a good day at quarterback for the Pirates by 2023 standards.
Flinn completed 23 of 43 for 225 yards with two touchdowns and one interception without senior tight end Shane Calhoun in the lineup due to a season ending injury.
A 13-yard scoring pass from Flinn to Jaylen Johnson with 7:56 left in the first quarter tied the score at 7.
After the Roadrunners retook the lead on a 10-yard TD run by Robert Henry, a 33-yard field goal by Andrew Conrad got ECU within 14-10.
The Pirates surged in front, 17-14, on a 36-yard pick six by Dontavious Nash late in the first quarter.
The hosts responded with the next 17 points to take control.
ECU closed within 31-20 at the half on a 51-yard field goal by Conrad.
The Pirates finished the scoring with a 4-yard pass from Flinn to Chase Sowell with 15 seconds left and covered the betting line that favored UTSA by 18.5 points.
Gerald Green, who has come back from an ailment, had a 46-yard run to boost ECU’s ground game with three rushes for 53 yards. Finn’s 20 keepers also produced 53 yards. Johnson finished as the Pirates’ top receiver with eight catches for 105 yards.
ECU had more first downs, 21-18. The Pirates were a respectable eight of 19 on third down conversions compared to nine of 16 for the Roadrunners. ECU had a 141-120 lead in rushing yards despite yielding five sacks.
The Roadrunners scored more points on the Pirates than did No. 2 Michigan in a 30-3 win in the season opener.
“The kids will play when we teach them,” Houston said. “We’ve got to do a better job of teaching them.”
Flinn did not split time with Mason Garcia for the first time this season.
“He showed a lot of toughness and just a lot of tenacity,” Houston said of Flinn. “There’s a half a dozen plays he’ll look at that’s the difference in the game. It’s tough. The pressure is on the quarterback. … If you don’t want that pressure, then don’t be that guy.
“He played very well for the bulk of the day. He’s going to look at those half a dozen plays, and we’ve just got to help him make a better decision in those situations.'”
The Pirates look to take another step forward offensively and regroup on defense for a home game against Tulane on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2 or ESPNU). The Green Wave (7-1, 4-0 AAC) managed a 30-28 win at Rice on Saturday to remain tied with Southern Methodist and UTSA atop the league standings. Tulane topped the Pirates, 24-9, last season in New Orleans.