BOCA RATON. FL — With another solid defensive effort and record-setting production from placekicker Andrew Conrad, East Carolina stopped a 5-game losing streak with a 22-7 American Athletic Conference win at Florida Atlantic on Saturday.
“We haven’t had the season we wanted, but this team has never stopped fighting,” said ECU coach Mike Houston at the conclusion of the ESPN+ telecast.
Conrad was the face of the fight against FAU with field goals from 46, 47, 43, 46 and 40 yards, surpassing the school record of four field goals in a game, which had been done 11 times. The last to boot four was Jake Verity in a 19-7 win over visiting William & Mary on Sept. 21, 2019.
Conrad kept connecting without a miss despite some significant crosswind at Howard Schnellenberger Field at FAU Stadium.
He added the conversion to give the Pirates a 7-0 lead with 5:59 left in the first quarter after an 18-yard touchdown run by Georgia Southern transfer Gerald Green. Julien Davis blocked an Owls punt to set up possession at the FAU 27.
Conrad had 16 points as ECU won for the first time this season on the road and in league play.
Conrad’s first field goal, from 46 yards, came in the first minute of the second quarter for a 10-0 lead and likely reminded Pirate fans of a 10-0 lead over No. 23 Tulane the previous week that preceded a 13-10 loss to the Green Wave in Greenville.
“We talked about it this morning,” Houston said. “We’ve been close. We’ve been playing better.”
The hosts got within 10-7 on a possession that started at the ECU 41 after a 28-yard punt by Luke Larsen. A 3-yard run by Michael Johnson Jr. completed the drive with 7:07 left in the half.
The Owls didn’t juice the scoreboard again as they were ,limited to four for 17 on third down conversions and one for five on fourth down tries.
ECU had a 235-172 lead in total yards as FAU managed just 21 yards rushing. The Owls were coming off a 45-42 loss at Alabama-Birmingham, in which they had 191 yards on the ground and 484 total yards.
LaJohntay Wester, who ranked fifth nationally with 1,004 receiving yards coming in, managed just 38 yards on six catches against the Pirates.
Alex Flinn completed 18 of 30 passes for ECU for 156 yards with no scores and one interception. He had tosses for eight yards to Jaylen Johnson and 14 yards to Chase Sowell on a drive that culminated with a 47-yard field goal by Conrad with 2:37 left in the half. The 13-7 advantage lasted until the first of three scoring kicks by Conrad in the fourth quarter.
Sowell had five receptions for 72 yards. Johnson’s two grabs accounted for 40 yards. Green led the ground game with 33 yards on 15 carries with a TD for the second game in a row.
B.J. Davis was in on 11 tackles for the Pirates with six solo stops. Julius Wood had his second interception of the season as ECU got its first win of 2023 over a Football Bowl Subdivision foe.
The Pirates have not had a winners’ dinner on Sunday evening at the Murphy Center since a 44-0 triumph over Gardner-Webb on Sept. 23.
“Let’s eat,” said defensive lineman Suirad Ware, who had one of five ECU sacks.
The Pirates improved to 2-8 overall and 1-5 in the AAC. The Owls (4-6, 3-3) slipped to 0-2 against ECU. That includes a 31-13 road loss in 2013.
The Pirate swagger had turned into a limp, but the win at FAU should provide some fresh legs and confidence for the pending trip to Navy on Saturday (noon, ESPN News).The Midshipmen (4-5, 3-3) got a 31-6 win at home over UAB on Saturday.
Houston’s stern countenance of recent weeks gave way to a smile after Flinn took a knee at the ECU 43 to finally dissipate the frustration of losing.
“It was an incredible scene down there with our players and the fans base,” Houston said on the Pirate radio network. “Obviously, it was a lot of weight lifted off a lot of people.”