Everything seemed to feed off one game-changing play in East Carolina's
30-17 American Athletic Conference football win over Tulsa on Homecoming
The Golden Hurricane was
moving the ball as advertised after taking the opening kickoff and
traversing from their 19 to the ECU 12 over the manicured turf of
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Tulsa came in averaging 568 yards of total
offense and 36.6 points per game.
Coach Phillip Montgomery's
first-year team had not been playing weak sisters either. They piled up
603 yards of offense in a 52-38 loss at Oklahoma the third game of the
The Golden Hurricane wanted
their offense on the field as quickly as possible. They became only the
fourth ECU opponent in the last 44 games to receive the opening kickoff.
The first four minutes and
14 seconds made it look like the Pirates might have to match the
visitors in an offensive showdown.
Then senior corner Josh
Hawkins changed the flow. He intercepted Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans in
the end zone.
Hawkins wasn't content to
take a touchback and give the ECU offense the ball at its 20. Hawkins
saw a lot of the green grass that the Pirates had conceded as Tulsa
converted twice on third down and once on fourth down on the first
Being a former running back
of some note – Hawkins led Forsyth County in rushing as a senior at
Glenn before walking on at ECU – he began a sprint upfield. He
semi-hurdled a sliding Tulsa tackling attempt at the ECU 20 and the
defense quickly formed an escort at midfield.
"It was fun seeing the
defense block," said Fred Presley of the defensive front.
"He reverted," said Pirates
coach Ruffin McNeill of Hawkins' dormant skills. "He started pointing
out for his blockers."
Hawkins took his ninth
career pick 100 yards to the house to the delight of most of the 43,065
Before starting quarterback
Blake Kemp took the field, ECU had a 7-0 advantage when it looked like
the left-hander might have to lead the Pirates back from an early
"That was like Christmas,"
Kemp said. "That takes a lot of pressure off the offense."
While ECU and Pirate Nation
were amped, there was a perceptible deflation on the north sideline.
"It affected us, no doubt,"
Montgomery said. "Anytime you have that type of momentum swing. ... We
had a great drive going in there. ... That almost put us into a deep
coma until the fourth (quarter) when we finally got a couple of things
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By the time Tulsa
avoided a shutout, the Pirates had made ample use of their
Kemp completed eight of 12
passes for 78 yards, the bulk of it on a 90-yard drive that produced a
24-yard field goal by Davis Plowman for a 10-0 lead.
James Summers came in
during the second quarter and was 11 of 16 for 127 yards with one
touchdown and one interception. Summers ran 12 times for 44 yards with a
6-yard carry for a score after Evans was sacked at his own 4-yard line
on a desperation fourth down conversion attempt with 2:08 to go.
Hawkins led off a day on
which the defense had the offense's back. ECU converted just four of 15
Plowman contributed 12
points, including a career-long 41-yard field goal.
Senior Chris Hairston had
18 carries for 82 yards and caught a scoring pass from Summers.
Senior mike linebacker Zeek
Bigger was in on 13 tackles after shedding the padded cast he had been
wearing to protect a broken thumb.
"My last Homecoming,"
It was a feel-good
afternoon for the most part. McNeill was not sure how seriously
defensive lineman Demetri McGill might have been hurt when he was helped
off the field as the Pirates coach met with media following ECU's 10th
straight homecoming win.
McNeill said his eyeballs
might start sweating when he talked about all the former players who had
come back for the occasion. McNeill said he checked in with his former
Pirate coach, Pat Dye, and Pat Dye Jr., this week.
The tone will soon change
for ECU in preparation for a Thursday night matchup with Temple at home,
but the Pirates had fun in the sun on Saturday.
First-year ECU offensive
coordinator Dave Nichol called a play in the second quarter that looked
like it could have come out of former OC Lincoln Riley's bag of tricks.
Summers lateralled to
Jones, who spun and threw a spiral downfield that Davon Grayson latched
onto for a 34-yard gain to the Tulsa 33.
"Maybe we need three
quarterbacks," Jones said with a smile.