Game No. 7: ECU 38, Navy 35
Saturday, October 22, 2011
By Denny O'Brien
Davis delivers record-setting
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ANNAPOLIS, MD — It wasn’t long
ago that Dominique Davis’s status as East Carolina’s starting quarterback
was in question.
Make it two weeks to be exact,
when Davis was relieved during a
56-3 loss to Houston after throwing
three interceptions and failing to find any rhythm. At his best that day,
Davis was uncertain and lacked confidence against a mediocre Cougars
But that was two games ago,
the equivalent of an eternity in the ebb and flow of college football. And
Davis isn’t remotely the same quarterback who appeared lost and confused
amid a heavy Houston rush.
38-35 upset win over Navy Saturday,
Davis didn’t even resemble the same quarterback who engineered four comeback
victories last year. To understate it, he was a much better version of
So much better that he was
five plays short of perfection. Davis, who finished 40 of 45 for 372 yards
and two touchdowns, completed his first 26 passes, rewriting the NCAA record
for the most consecutive completions in a single game.
If you dial it back to the
win over Memphis last week, Davis
rode a streak of 36-straight completions before misfiring on the Pirates’
opening possession of the second half.
Not bad for a guy for whom
many within Pirate Nation were demanding an exile to the bench. Good thing
Pirates Coach Ruffin McNeill turned a deaf ear to the armchair coaches who
sought a demotion.
“Dominique led us,” McNeill
said. “He made great audibles. Dominique is one of those guys who really has
so much self pride that he will take the reigns himself. He’s our leader.
He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around.
"What he did tonight and what
he’s done the last couple of weeks doesn’t surprise me.”
Nor should it.
When you closely observe
Davis’s career to date, his performance against Houston was the exception,
not the rule. Otherwise, he has been cool under pressure and a proficient
distributor of the football.
Just consider that of the nine
wins during the McNeill era, five of them have been fourth quarter comebacks
engineered by Davis. The win over Navy was one of them.
When Navy receiver Matt Aiken
corralled a 37-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Trey Miller to
push Navy ahead 35-31, it was the perfect opportunity for the Pirates to
shift into meltdown mode. Less than eight minutes remained and ECU had just
squandered a 10-point fourth quarter lead.
Instead of retreating into a
moment of panic, Davis did what he normally does in these scenarios. He
delivered. And he did so at a time when the Pirates’ season had officially
entered a desperation point.
A loss would have put ECU’s
bowl hopes in serious doubt. At 2-5, that would have left almost no room for
error with several tough opponents remaining on the schedule.
With the game and ECU’s season
in the balance, Davis calmly marched the Pirates down the field for the
winning score. He did so by managing the offense as flawlessly as he’s ever
done, taking exactly what the defense offered and making the correct calls
at the line of the scrimmage.
Davis didn’t try to do too
much, but he did more than enough. With the offensive line executing as well
as it has all season, he let that unit and running back Reggie Bullock carry
much of the load.
Then, on a critical 4th and
five with 5:51 remaining, Davis calmly found freshman Danny Webster for 11
yards on a play that essentially saved the season for ECU.
“I was just trying to be a
leader on the offense and just get the ball into the receivers’ hands,”
Davis said of his performance. “Coach (offensive coordinator Lincoln) Riley
put me in a great position to be successful. I just come in every week and
stay positive and stay excited.
"If I just keep doing the
routine plays, the floodgates will open.”
They opened in a major way for
Davis and East Carolina Saturday. They opened with 504 yards of offense and
a 38-35 statement win over a Navy team that
embarrassed the Pirates in Greenville
performance Saturday couldn’t have come at a more crucial moment in the
season, or happened to a more humble, hardworking guy.
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10/23/2011 03:10:52 AM