EAST HARTFORD, CT —
What happened to East Carolina at Connecticut on Friday night?
the loss to Temple beat the
Coach Ruffin McNeill
acknowledged that the physicality of last Thursday night's 24-14 home
setback was a factor going forward.
Perhaps the loss to the
Owls took away confidence and left ECU flat.
Maybe the incentive to win
the American Athletic Conference East Division was missing.
by N.C. State transfer Bryant Shirreffs, was ready to seize the
opportunities that the Pirates presented, including four interceptions.
Maybe it was too cold for
ECU to play its best. Maybe the role of the underdog inspired the
Huskies, as it has so many times for the Pirates.
ECU's game-long search for
offense led to a 31-13 loss to the Huskies at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at
The offense struggled to
overcome penalties and turnovers. The defense gave up big plays, like a
90-yard touchdown run by Arkeel Newsome, who carried 25 times for 179
yards with two scores.
UConn converted seven of 14
first downs. The Pirates converted five of 15. ECU went for it three
times on fourth down and was successful once.
There was little to sugar
coat a decisive defeat from a team that came in at 3-5 on the season and
1-3 in the league.
ECU (4-5, 2-3) even had the
extra point blocked after its first touchdown.
The question going forward
is whether the Pirate ship is taking on water and sinking or are the
season and a bowl trip salvageable?
ECU needs to win two of its
four remaining games to become eligible for a postseason trip.
McNeill cited the value of
being home next Saturday (7:30 p.m. vs. South Florida) in terms of
having a routine game week for a change.
This wasn't Florida, Navy,
Brigham Young or Temple, who have a combined 24-4 record with losses to
some nationally-elite teams. UConn had lost five of its last six, but
the Huskies played great in some new gray uniforms.
The Pirates showed some
life in completing a 49-yard drive with a 2-yard scoring run by Blake
Kemp to pull within 24-13 with 9:25 left in the game.
UConn answered with a
66-yard scoring march capped by a 3-yard run by Shirreffs, who was
flipped into the end zone by the Pirate pursuit.
The Pirates were in trouble
after a 23-yard scoring pass by Shirreffs to tight end Alec Bloom gave
the Huskies a 17-6 lead with 3:38 left in the third quarter.
Going into the fourth
quarter, ECU's offense had not scored a point since late in the first
half of the preceding game against Temple. The Pirates played James
Summers most of the way at quarterback at UConn until Kemp came in late.
Summers ran and came up
short on a fourth down that preceded UConn's Shirreffs to Bloom scoring
UConn muffed a punt catch
but recovered at its own 10 and went ahead 24-6 on the next play, the
90-yard touchdown run by Newsome with 1:51 left in the third quarter.
When Kemp came in late in
the third quarter, the problems continued as his second pass was picked
off. Kemp finished seven for 11 for 50 yards with three picks.
Summers was 12 for 21 for
87 yards with one interception.
"Definitely, lack of
execution," Summers said. " ... You can only get better. Getting worse
is not an option. ... We've got to stick together. The team knows that
and we're going to get better. We've got to get better."
Summers didn't totally
slight UConn's role in the stunning outcome.
"They played well," said
the Pirates quarterback. "They played fast out there on the field.
They're well-disciplined. When you're disciplined and know your spot,
you're already there."
One bright spot was the
return of Marquez Grayson, who ran nine times for 87 yards for ECU.
Chris Hairston had 12 carries for 67 yards.
Isaiah Jones led the
receivers with nine catches for 85 yards.
The Huskies led 10-6 at the
half. The Pirates took the initial lead on a 32-yard interception return
by DaShawn Amos with 5:15 left in the first quarter.
Bobby Plowman's extra-point
attempt was blocked.
UConn got within 6-3 with
22 seconds left in the opening period as Bobby Puyol hit a 45-yard field
The Huskies drove 94 yards
in 12 plays to take the lead on a 2-yard carry by Newsome with 7:44
remaining in the half after a pass interference call on the Pirates'
Josh Hawkins moved the ball from the ECU 10-yard line to the Pirates 2.
The Pirates had a 157-138
lead in total yardage in the first 30 minutes. The Huskies led 404-340
for the game.
"The first half I thought
we needed some answers from our offense," McNeill said. "I thought our
defense played extremely well in the first half."
Matters obviously got out
of hand for ECU in the second half.
"You can't turn the ball
over," McNeill said. "I thought we had some opportunities for some makes