Orlando | Bright House Networks Stadium | Attendance: 23,734 | TV: ESPN

ECU 44, UCF 7 | Inside Game Day | Audio: Coach Ruff Postgame Presser...

>>>  AAC SCOREBOARD  >>> ..... ..... Thursday: ECU 44, UCF 7 (ESPN) ..... ..... Friday: USF 65, Cincinnati 27 (CBSSN) ..... ..... Saturday: Temple 31, Memphis 12 (ESPNU) ..... UConn 20, Houston 17 (ESPNU) ..... Navy 44, Tulsa 21 (CBSSN) ..... SMU 49, Tulane 21 (ESPNN) ..... .....

Inside Game Day
Thursday, November 19, 2015

By Al Myatt

Pirates turn tables on UCF

Ruff Post-game Audio

ECU coach Ruffin McNeill spoke with reporters after the Pirates' win over AAC East foe UCF Thursday night in Orlando (recorded by Al Myatt; file photo): Select audio clip...

Faces of Victory

Junior quarterback Blake Kemp threw for a pair of career bests — 448 yards and four touchdowns.

Junior Davis Plowman kicked three field goals, including a career-long 45-yarder.

Senior mike linebacker Zeek Bigger was in on a team-high eight tackles.

Senior defensive lineman Johnathon White acknowledges Pirate fans after the 44-7 win.

(All photos by Al Myatt)



Pirates reboot QB strategy

East Carolina heads into the home stretch of the 2015 football season needing to win its final two games, starting with Thursday’s matchup against winless Central Florida in Orlando, to finish at .500 and achieve bowl eligibility. ... More from Brett Friedlander...



Kevin's Keys to the Game

East Carolina heads into tonight's American Athletic Conference game at Central Florida at 4-6 after consecutive losses to Temple, Connecticut and South Florida. In each of those defeats, ECU led in the 4th quarter but couldn't hold on. ... More from Kevin Monroe...


By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Audio: Coach Ruff postgame...

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ORLANDO — The last time East Carolina played at Bright House Networks Stadium in a Conference USA contest in 2012, the Pirates took a 14-0 lead before Central Florida rallied for a 40-20 win.

A 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Quincy McDuffie sparked the UCF rally three years ago.

A kickoff return by the Knights provided a turning point again on a rainy Thursday night as Patrick Green forced a fumble by UCF's Tristan Payton after the Pirates had tied the score at 7 on a 19-yard pass from Blake Kemp to Brandon Bishop.

DaShaun Amos recovered for the Pirates at the Knights 30-yard line. Kemp hit Isaiah Jones on an 8-yard scoring pass four plays later to put ECU ahead to stay. Jones got a foot down in the left corner of the end zone with 7:50 left in the first quarter as the Pirates took a 14-7 lead.

ECU coach Ruffin McNeill got his first road win against the Knights in three tries. The Pirates had not prevailed at UCF since 2008 during the Skip Holtz coaching era.

Story continues after the following picture...

ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill had a heart-to-heart talk with his team before the game. (Al Myatt photo)

"Proud of the heart of this team, proud of the staff," McNeill said after a three-game losing streak was snapped with a 44-7 victory on ESPN.

The outcome kept ECU in the bowl picture as the Pirates improved to 5-6 overall and 3-4 in the American Athletic Conference.

A noon game on Nov. 28 at home against Cincinnati will determine if East Carolina gets six wins for bowl eligibility.

ECU athletic director Jeff Compher said an AAC team won't be left at home as Temple was last year with a 6-6 record.

"We have more bowl slots now," Compher said. "That won't happen again."

With linebackers Zeek Bigger and Montese Overton on the sideline for the first series of the game, UCF took a 7-0 lead on an 11-yard scoring pass from Justin Holman to freshman Tre'Quan Smith. McNeill indicated it was a minor disciplinary matter that kept the elite defenders from starting.

Holman was the culprit in the Knights' stunning 32-30 win at ECU last season as his Hail Mary to Breshad Perriman as time expired negated a Pirate rally from a 26-9 deficit in the fourth quarter.

Kemp started at quarterback after sitting out a 22-17 loss to South Florida in the Pirates' last game on Nov. 7. He hadn't thrown a pass in competition since he was picked off three times late in a 31-13 loss at Connecticut on Oct. 30.

The time off didn't affect his poise or ability to find open receivers.

Kemp completed 20 of 30 passes for 260 yards with three TDs in the first half. Jones had six catches for 109 yards as the Pirates were in control 31-7 at the half.

It was a stark contrast to the 29 yards and no first downs produced by ECU in the first half of the South Florida game.

Holman went out of the game in the second quarter and Tyler Harris came in for the Knights, who had a successful onside kick to start the second half.

Kemp revved up the Pirate offense with some Shane Carden-like numbers. His fourth TD pass went to Jones, covering 13 yards with 6:23 left in the third quarter for a 38-7 ECU lead.

Kemp finished 34 of 50 for 448 yards with four touchdowns, no interceptions and one sack.

"It felt good to be back out there on the field," Kemp said. "The offensive line did a great job protecting so it really helped me go through my reads."

The offensive line has been reconstructed with three starters out with injuries.

Isaiah Jones had 13 catches for 164 yards and two TD receptions.

"He blocked well, too," McNeill said.

Ten different receivers had catches for ECU, which amassed 605 yards of offense.

Chris Hairston ran 14 times for 123 yards with a 39-yard touchdown.

Davis Plowman made field goals of 45, 36 and 36 yards. The 45-yarder was his career longest.

UCF (0-11, 0-7) is having a surprising struggle after winning a share of the league title with the remarkable ending in Greenville in 2014. George O'Leary resigned as coach and Danny Barrett slipped to 0-3 as interim coach.

The Pirates avoided the tendency to play down to the level of their competition.

"It's a lot of fun when you win," said Bigger, who was in on a team-high eight tackles. "Everybody knows that. It's just been hard times. It's something we had to get over. We had to start over and get another win.

"Now we've got to see what we're going to do next week."

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11/23/2015 12:43:43 AM