Tulsa had the intangibles but East Carolina had the talent in
a 49-32 American Athletic Conference win
for the Pirates on Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium on Friday night.
The Golden Hurricane was
fueled by the emotion of Senior Night amid speculation about coach Bill
Blankenship's future at his alma mater and led 14-7 in the first quarter
after blocking an ECU punt in the end zone for a score.
That got a crowd of 15,126
excited about the possibility of an upset.
But the Pirates were able
to respond every time they were threatened in snapping a two-game losing
streak in AAC road games.
The weather was much
friendlier than for the unsuccessful trips
to Temple and
Temperature for the 8:37
p.m kickoff (EST) was a balmy 63 degrees, according to the final
statistics book, with south winds at nine miles per hour. The Pirates
started out hot, scoring on their customary opening possession with a
75-yard drive completed by a 15-yard Shane Carden pass to Bryce
"You don't let anything
knock you down and you keep on pushing," said Williams of the early
deficit. "We just keep on playing our game. Our mindset is to keep on
Williams also had a 12-yard
scoring reception in the third quarter as Carden finished 28 of 41 for
338 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Justin Hardy had
nine grabs for 88 yards, including the go-ahead TD late in the first
half as he extended his FBS career receptions record to 364.
"We understood their
position," Carden said. "It was their last game, the last game for the
seniors. They had nothing to lose. They were going to come out and give
you everything they've got. They fought hard. We've been talking all
season about weathering the storm. Things are going to happen that don't
go your way that you can't control.
"We could have played
better. When we look at the film, there will be plenty of things we can
get better at but we kept fighting. We kept believing."
ECU outgained the Golden
Mike linebacker Zeek Bigger
had 10 solo tackles, four assists and an interception that he returned
22 yards to set up ECU's second touchdown, which tied the score at 14 on
a 16-yard catch and run by Jimmy Williams.
"We've been doing a lot of
turnover drills," Bigger said. "I've been saying the whole week that
we've got to do a better job of getting turnovers. ... That pick I was
just doing my assignment and I ended up running to the right place at
the right time. Lord knows I was trying to make it to the end zone. I
got a little winded going back to my running back days in high school.
"It got the sideline
jumping and gave us some momentum."
Bigger's running mate at
inside linebacker, Brandon Williams, returned an interception 37 yards
to give the Pirates a 49-25 lead with 11:23 left in the game.
"If we keep giving our
offense extra possessions, we feel like we're a team with one
heartbeat," Bigger said. "We know our offense can score so the thing is
getting turnovers and making plays so we can give them the ball back.
... I know how the other teams feel because I feel the same way in
The offense was stopped on
fourth-and-goal at the Tulsa 1-yard line with 2:09 left in the first
half and the score tied at 14, but ECU's defense forced an incompletion
on 3rd-and-5 from the Golden Hurricane 7-yard line. ECU got the ball
back on the Tulsa 40 with 1:08 left in the half and scored on a 4-yard
pass to Hardy to take the lead for keeps just 14 seconds before
"Not scoring and then
coming back — not trying to do anything over the top and just going out
and scoring — just speaks highly of our team," Carden said.
The Pirates had a lot of
contributors in dropping Tulsa to 2-10 for the season and 2-6 in league
Cam Worthy had five catches
for 98 yards. Isaiah Jones accounted for 38 yards with four receptions.
Davon Grayson had two catches for 41 yards.
Chris Hairston picked up 91
yards on six carries. Cory Hunter ran for his first career score.
"That was a team win," said
ECU coach Ruffin McNeill after the Pirates improved to 8-3 overall and
5-2 in the AAC. "Wins on the road in our conference and in the country
are hard. You'll see that through this weekend and all the holidays. ...
Really proud our kids hung together as a team. We knew we'd face a very
Bigger said the six-day
game week was tough and the Pirates have another one coming up. ECU will
experience the same emotion that Tulsa did Friday night with its seniors
playing their final home game against Central Florida to close the
"Right now, we're thinking
about UCF," Carden said. "Senior Night back home (7:30 p.m., Thursday,
ESPN) is my last game at Dowdy-Ficklen. That game is going to mean a lot
for me so I want to make sure I'm 100 percent."