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Game No. 9: Southern Miss 48, ECU 28


Inside Game Day
Saturday, November 5, 2011

By Al Myatt

Momentum boomerangs on error-prone Pirates

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

GREENVILLE Aussie Patrick McNaughton ran into some problems after earning the start as East Carolina's punter in practice this week.

Momentum boomeranged badly on the Pirates after Reese Wiggins had taken a Dominique Davis pass 72 yards to the house for a 7-0 lead on the second play from scrimmage.

The Pirates appeared to be poised for an early two-touchdown lead with a 2nd-and-2 at the Southern Miss 8-yard line after a three and out by the ECU defense.

A pass to Joe Womack bounced in the air off the receiver's shoulder pads and Jamie Collins of the Golden Eagles returned it 97 yards for a tying touchdown.

"That was a momentum deal for them," said Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill. "In a game like this, you have to take advantage of that (situation)."

McNaughton came in to punt with the ball at the ECU 25 on the Pirates' next possession. The plan was to land the ball in front of dangerous USM returner Tracy Lampley.

"We didn't kick it or cover it well," McNeill said.

McNaughton said Lampley was closer than he anticipated.

"I was supposed to kick it rugby style and land it short of him," the native of New South Wales said. "I got too much air under it and it went directly to him."

Lampley caught the line drive and went 60 yards for six points, giving the Golden Eagles the lead for keeps.

McNaughton didn't get his next attempt off. USM's Reggie Hunt blocked it and Emmanuel Johnson returned it 15 yards for a 21-7 Southern Miss lead with 5:08 left in the first quarter.

McNaughton said regular long snapper William Smith had something in his eye and didn't come out on the play that led to the blocked punt. Matt Milner is his back-up.

"The snap was a little high and I just didn't get it off," McNaughton said.

A 79-yard interception return by Deron Wilson extended Southern Miss' lead to 38-14 at the half and set the stage for the Golden Eagles to coast in the second half to the 48-28 win.

"Four touchdowns without our defense on the field," McNeill said. " ... We're beating ourselves."

No comeback like last year

A year ago the Pirates overcame a 20-0 deficit in the first quarter to win 44-43 at Southern Miss. Lance Lewis had a pair of 46-yard touchdown catches in that comeback but Lewis was sidelined Saturday with a stress fracture in his right foot. McNeill is hopeful he will return by season's end.

"We reminded everybody that we were in the same situation last year," said ECU receiver Andrew Bodenheimer. "I told them there's nothing that we can't do. At the time, it was only the first quarter. Our thoughts were that we were fine and we were going to get it back.

"That was the mindset that we had to have for the rest of the game."

Bodenheimer had five catches for 60 yards. Justin Hardy returned from an injury to lead Pirate receivers with seven catches for 64 yards and one touchdown.

True freshman Danny Webster had three catches for 33 yards.

"Losing hurts but losing at home hurts even worse," Webster said.

Tough competition

ECU lost to its fourth nationally-ranked team in a season that has seemingly been filled with opponents of widely-varying competitive ability.

The teams that have beaten the Pirates South Carolina, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Houston and Southern Miss had a record of 37-7 with some yet to complete games Saturday. The teams that ECU (4-5, 3-2 C-USA) has beaten UAB, Memphis, Navy and Tulane had a combined mark of 8-27.

Texas-El Paso, which will host the Pirates at 8 p.m. next Saturday, was 4-5 overall and 1-4 in the league after a 41-37 loss to Rice.

Positive outlook

ECU quarterback Dominique Davis is keeping a positive attitude with the Pirates needing to win two of their last three games to become bowl eligible. The Pirates return home to take on Central Florida on Nov. 19 and travel to Marshall on Nov. 26.

"I have to show excitement and stay positive, win or lose," Davis said. "If (my teammates) see panic on my face, they're more than likely going to react the same way.

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11/06/2011 02:30:18 AM


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