ECU 31, UConn 21 • Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium • Attend: 40,152 • TV: ESPNU

Inside Game Day | Photo Gallery... | Post-game Audio... | The Season

AAC SCOREBOARD >>> ..... | Thursday > ECU 31, UConn 21 (ESPNU) ..... Friday > Cincinnati 34, USF 17 (ESPN2) ..... | Saturday > Memphis 48, SMU 10 (ESPNN) ..... UCF 34, Temple 14 (CBSSN) ..... .....

Inside Game Day
Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

By Al Myatt

How good is ECU?

Ruff Post-game Audio

ECU coach Ruffin McNeill spoke with the press after Thursday night's ECU-UConn game (recorded by W.A. Myatt; file photo): Select audio clip...

PURPLE HEART: ECU coach and alumnus Ruffin McNeill joins in on the fight song in front of the "Boneyard" in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium after the Pirates' hard-fought victory over American Athletic Conference foe UConn. © All right reserved. [W.A. Myatt photo]

View more pictures in W.A. Myatt's photo gallery...


American Schedule


ECU 31, UConn 21


USF at Cincinnati, 7 pm (ESPN2)
Memphis at SMU, 12 pm (ESPNN)
Temple at UCF, 5 pm (CBSSN)


Kevin's Keys to the Game

East Carolina is back in action today after its second bye week. The opening in the schedule came at a perfect time for the Pirates. With just one American Athletic Conference game under its belt, it gave the team the opportunity to get healthy and recharge to make its first run at the American title. ... More from Kevin Monroe...



'Bring 'em on' strategy proves shrewd

East Carolina has long subscribed to the philosophy of playing anybody, anyplace, anytime on the football field. It’s an approach that was accelerated back in 2005  ... More from Brett Friedlander...



ECU's MIB a blockbuster hit

These East Carolina Pirates simply love playing the role of the “Men in Black.”
Of course it’s not quite Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, but you get the idea. ...
More from Brian Bailey...


Audio: The Brian Bailey Show

The Brian Bailey Show airs on Pirate Radio 1250 on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. Brian's guest this week was ECU hall of famer and three-time Super Bowl champion Robert Jones (right): Replay show...


Audio: Coach Ruff Weekly Presser

ECU coach Ruffin McNeill spoke with the media at his weekly press conference on Monday (courtesy of Pirate Radio 1250; Bonesville file photo): Select clip...



Déjà vu emerging in heart of defense

While East Carolina may not be known as Linebacker U, there should be no mistaking the quality of players that have come through the program at the position. ... More from Ron Cherubini...


SPC a model for success

Football stadiums will be buzzing again this weekend as the second half of the college football season begins. But there will be plenty of empty seats on game day in many of the student seating sections around the country. ... More from Greg Vacek...



2nd half feeds into 2nd half

Al Myatt

The extended break between games for the 2014 East Carolina team amounts to halftime in the regular season for the Pirates, who are 5-1 and ranked as high as No. 16 in the major polls. Halftime marked a significant juncture Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium ... More from Al Myatt...



Future looks bright at RB position

The pass-centric “Air Raid'' offense that Ruffin McNeill and Lincoln Riley brought to East Carolina from Texas Tech back in January 2010 has from the very start attracted talented recruits at the quarterback and wide receiver positions. ... More from Sammy Batten...



Swamp Monster a dominant force

Shane Carden is “The Captain.”
Justin Hardy goes by “Deuce.” Breon Allen is “Fun Size.” Those nicknames can’t compare with the moniker Terry Williams goes by. The 6-1, 353-pound Williams is nicknamed “The Swamp Monster.” ...
More from Brian Bailey...


Audio: The Brian Bailey Show

The Brian Bailey Show airs on Pirate Radio 1250 on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. Brian's guest was ECU director of football administration Dale Steele (right): Replay show...



Inside Game Day | Ruff Post-game Audio...

AAC SCOREBOARD >>> ..... Thursday > UCF 31, BYU 24 (OT) ..... ..... Saturday > Temple 35, Tulsa 24 ..... Miami (FL) 55, Cincinnati 34 ..... ECU 28, USF 17 ..... Houston 28, Memphis 24 ..... Tulane 12, UConn 3 ..... .....

Pirates End A Competitive Hex

Al Myatt

TAMPA — East Carolina football coach Ruffin McNeill has acronyms for a variety of things. He formulated TBA for Trust, Belief and Accountability to describe the foundation for relationships among members of the program. OPAT for One Play At (a) Time evolved later as a reminder for the mindset needed to respond to immediate challenges. ... More from Al Myatt...


By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

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GREENVILLE — East Carolina became bowl eligible for the eighth time in the last nine seasons with a 31-21 American Athletic Conference football win over Connecticut at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Thursday night.

The Pirates improved to 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the American Athletic Conference while the Huskies fell to 1-6 for the season and 0-4 in the league.

Those are things we know seven games into the 2014 season.

One thing that escapes a handle at the moment is just how good is ECU?

The Pirates are ranked No. 18 by the Associated Press and No. 17 in the coaches poll.

Despite the seeming disparity between the two teams that tangled on ESPNU, ECU had to step it up a notch with the score tied at 21 with less than seven minutes to play.

The Pirates got stops and scores to deflate the Huskies' upset hopes.

Too-often erratic Warren Harvey kicked a much-needed 31-yard field goal for the lead with 6:15 to go. A crowd of 40,152 could exhale after Breon Allen squirted nine yards into the end zone with 1:25 left to complete a 76-yard drive.

Pirates corners Detric Allen and Josh Hawkins each fell down on UConn scoring passes in the second half or ECU might have emerged with a more comfortable win.

At least, it made good television. It isn't what a program would want as a dark horse in the national playoff picture.

"I told (the players) do not dare try to defend a win," said Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill. "The main thing is to win and we did that."

Are we expecting too much from the Pirates based on their performance during the nonconference portion of the schedule?

The Pirates outgained South Carolina in a 33-23 road loss and were without run stopper Terry Williams when the Gamecocks went on a clock-consuming drive in the fourth quarter that put the game away.

ECU stunned Virginia Tech 28-21 in Blacksburg when the Hokies were coming off an attention-grabbing win at Ohio State.

The Pirates beat North Carolina decisively for the second straight year. That 70-41 win at home has been the zenith thus far for ECU and was the triumph that catapulted the Pirates into the polls.

That trio of games looked to be a pretty formidable walkup to the AAC but ECU's power five opponents have done little since to help themselves or boost the Pirates' strength of schedule.

The Gamecocks have stumbled late in losses to Missouri and Kentucky. The Hokies have crumbled, most recently on ESPN in a 30-6 loss to visiting Miami simultaneous to ECU's matchup with the Huskies.

The Heels have been humbled, losing twice before edging Georgia Tech last week. UNC took another salvo on the academic/athletic front this week with the release of information from an investigation into so-called paper classes.

If South Carolina, Virginia Tech and UNC are run of the mill, then what does that tell us about the Pirates?

It may mean we shouldn't have expected the ensuing AAC wins over Southern Methodist, South Florida and the Huskies to be easier than they were.

What the league wins have shown, as well as the triumphs over the ACC teams, is that ECU is capable of responding well to adversity.

Thursday night's black-out provided a background for another ECU gut check.

Despite jumping out to a 14-0 lead, the Pirates faced a tie at 14 early in the second half.

The Pirates got the ball on their 9-yard line after true freshman Anthony Scott bobbled the return following UConn's tying touchdown.

A 53-yard pass from Shane Carden to Cam Worthy was the big mover on a 91-yard drive that was completed on a fourth down carry by Breon Allen from a yard out with 8:58 left in the third quarter. That put the Pirates ahead, 21-14.

ECU corner Josh Hawkins slipped down on an 88-yard scoring pass from Chan Whitmer to Deshon Foxx that allowed UConn to tie the score at 21 with 3:43 left in the third quarter.

Things started well for the Pirates with scoring drives on their first two possessions. ECU, taking the opening kickoff for the 30th time in the last 31 games, converted twice on third downs on a game-opening 79-yard drive. Carden passed to Trevon Brown on a screen play for 15 yards in a third-and-nine situation at the Pirates 49. On third-and-goal at the UConn 13, Carden connected with Justin Hardy for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead on Harvey's conversion kick with 10:52 left in the first quarter.

Carden completed 38 of 64 passes for 445 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

"We made plays when we had to," Carden said of ECU's performance down the stretch.

The conditioning work of Jeff Connors can't be overlooked as a factor late in games.

Brown left the game with a first-half knee injury. McNeill didn't know his status after the game.

"Just pray," said the Pirates coach.

Hardy had 14 catches for 186 yards with a score. Isaiah Jones caught 10 passes for 75 yards and Worthy had seven receptions for 138 yards.

After the Pirates defense turned in a three and out on the Huskies' first series, ECU picked up first downs twice when faced with fourth downs on its second possession.

Carden threw to Jones for five yards on a fourth-and-three at the UConn 29. On fourth-and-one at the Huskies 15, Breon Allen ran for five yards.

Bryce Williams hauled in a 10-yard toss from Carden as the Pirates went ahead 14-0 with 5:41 left in the first quarter.

A 43-yard gain on a play action pass from Chan Whitmer to Thomas Lucas got UConn untracked offensively. The visitors pulled within 14-7 as Whitmer pushed forward for a score from a yard out on a fourth down call with 1:53 left in the first quarter.

ECU had good field position after an interception by Terry Biles at the Huskies 33 with 12:35 remaining in the first half. The Pirates got as close as the UConn 6 but Carden was intercepted in the end zone by Byron Jones to spoil the opportunity.

ECU drove 90 yards to the Huskies 5 late in the first half but Carden lost six yards on a keeper and a delay of game penalty moved the ball back to the UConn 16. Harvey missed left on a 33-yard field goal attempt with six seconds left in the first half.

The Pirates were the dominant team in the first 30 minutes, holding a 302-124 lead in total yardage and getting 17 first downs to eight for the Huskies. ECU led 18:06 to 11:54 in time of possession but the difference was not as pronounced on the scoreboard as the statistics might indicate.

The situation was not as dire as a 17-7 halftime deficit in the previous game at South Florida but there were some focus adjustments necessary at the locker room break.

"We needed to get back to what we do," McNeill said of the halftime emphasis. "We were concerned too much with Connecticut."

The Pirates finished with a 580-397 lead in total yardage. ECU converted nine of 20 third downs and three of five fourth downs. The Pirates were five of seven on scoring chances in the red zone.

"Hard-fought game," said mike linebacker Zeek Bigger, who tied for the ECU team lead with nine tackles. "We're going to get everybody's best shot. I think everybody is seeing that now.

"I couldn't be more happy for this team — the offense and the defense in that fourth quarter played their hearts out. We fight for each other. We pulled out this win and we go on to the next one."

The Pirates begin preparing Sunday night for a noon kickoff at Temple on Saturday, Nov. 1.

We'll find out more about ECU against the Owls but it wouldn't be surprising to see another American grind.

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10/26/2014 01:25:15 AM