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Houston 34, East Carolina 24
Saturday, Nov. 6, 2004
By Al Myatt
Story posted Sunday, Nov. 7, 2004

Tough breaks in Texas



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HOUSTON — At least East Carolina wasn't loading up the bus at Houston's Robertson Stadium after being blown out again on the road.

Rewind to routs at West Virginia, Louisville and Southern Miss and one could develop an appreciation for the fact that the Pirates were competitive before falling to the Cougars by a relatively scant 34-24 margin on Saturday.

That. of course, barely moved the needle on the feel-good meter for the Pirates.

"The bottom line was we didn't execute," said quarterback James Pinkney, who was intercepted four times. "It's frustrating."

ECU had its chances, but instead of "What a win!" the postgame dissection dealt with a number of outcome-swaying "What ifs?"

Notable among those were a Houston fumble the Pirates apparently recovered at the Cougar 3-yard line early in the fourth quarter with ECU down, 28-17. But the turnover was negated by a facemask penalty that gave the Cougars a first down.

Instead of the Pirates being in prime position to trim the lead, Houston drove for a score and a 34-17 lead.

A 78-yard scoring run by ECU freshman Chris Johnson in the second quarter was nullified by a clipping call behind the runner.

There was also a mix-up when ECU had apparently forced the Cougars to try a field goal at the Pirates 4-yard line with 4:20 left in the third quarter. ECU was trying to protect a 17-14 lead at the time that was generated by Cameron Broadwell's 45-yard field goal to close the first half.

The Pirates had to call time because they had the wrong personnel on the field and Houston elected to go for a first down during the break. Anthony Evans rushed for the first down and Cougars sophomore quarterback Kevin Kolb ran a sneak for the Cougars' go-ahead score.

"We've got to get some breaks," said Pirates coach John Thompson. "Don't get a hand on the facemask and don't block in the back behind the play. We haven't been that kind of football team. We've been the least-penalized football team in the league. That's something we will go back and work on."

ECU, which came in averaging just 34.4 yards in penalties per game drew eight flags for 80 yards in walkoffs.

Defeat in City of Houston a first

The 2004 Pirates became the first ECU team to lose in Houston. The series includes a remarkable 54-48 triple overtime win for ECU in 2002 in which the Pirates rallied from a 34-17 fourth quarter deficit to overtake the Cougars.

The Pirates also had a 40-27 win over Texas Tech at the AstroDome in 2000 in the Bowl. ECU was 4-0 in Houston going into the Cougars' 2004 Homecoming.

Offense takes injury hits

ECU allowed only one sack and produced 384 yards of total offense, which was pretty impressive considering ECU's leading receiver, Bobby Good, went out in the first quarter with what appeared to be a knee injury, and center Charlie Dempsey was sidelined with a second quarter knee ailment.

Hunter Wood did not play center, apparently because of a shoulder injury sustained in a car accident on Wednesday. Reserve offensive lineman Trey Magee, the driver in the one-car accident, was cited because there was an open container of alcohol in the vehicle and drew a one game suspension from Thompson.

Dempsey moved from left guard to center to replace Wood. When Dempsey was knocked out of action, Hagen Mason switched from right tackle to center.

"I came to ECU as a center," Mason said. "It's like riding a bike. You don't forget how to do it."

Quarterback James Pinkney was ECU's top rusher with eight carries for a net of 45 yards and said he felt no limiting effects from a leg injury in the car accident, which had created doubt as to whether he would start.

"It just wasn't our week," Pinkney said of ECU's bad breaks and injuries.

The Pirates did get a break late in the game after Pinkney connected with Will Bland for a touchdown covering 58 yards that drew ECU within 34-24 with 2:58 to go. ECU recovered the ensuing onside kick but came up short on fourth-and-five at the Houston 38.

Pinkney's streaks

James Pinkney has thrown a TD pass in eight straight games, the longest span for an ECU quarterback since David Garrard had a touchdown toss in eight consecutive games during the 2001 season.

Pinkney's first interception, which came in the second quarter, ended his streak of consecutive passes without a pick at 101.

New approach on the road

ECU didn't workout in Houston prior to the game, a departure from the routine in previous road games this season.

"We worked out at home on Friday," Thompson said.

The Pirates had to stop in Kinston to refuel on the flight to Houston and spent about two hours sitting on the ground because the truck had to go get more fuel.

Still, ECU got off to a good start on Saturday. The Pirates scored first on the road for the first time this season on a 15-yard pass from Pinkney to Art Brown and held an opponent scoreless in the first quarter for the first time all season.


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02/23/2007 12:47:15 AM

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