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Henry, Townes Lead Assault on Tulane

By Denny O'Brien

Steve Logan took his East Carolina football team down to New Orleans earlier than usual to get acclimated to the cavernous confines of the Louisiana Superdome and its unforgiving artificial surface.

The extra preparation apparently helped because the Pirates made themselves right at home in the dome, piling up 539 yards of total offense en route to 51-24 runaway victory over Tulane (0-3, 0-1 C-USA).

For ECU (1-1, 1-0), the victory was a good first step towards that first-ever league title that they seek, and helped ease the pain from last week's disappointing home loss to Wake Forest.

It was an encouraging effort for the Pirates, who found little running room against the Wake Forest defense last week. That certainly wasn't the case on Saturday as ECU ground out 319 yards rushing, much of it in big chunks and most of it in the second half..

The ground assault was led by running back Leonard Henry, who finished with 218 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns, including a 92-yard scamper that sealed the victory. The 218-yard effort was a personal best for Henry, eclipsing last season's 167-yard performance against Houston.

"He (Leonard Henry) made some things happen," said quarterback David Garrard. "He got a lot of long runs, and that's what we look for in our offense."

Garrard was alluding to what ECU offensive coordinator Doug Martin refers to as 'explosion plays'. On the afternoon, the Pirates had four such plays of 50 yards or more.

The Pirates also got a few explosions from Henry's potential heir at the running back slot, redshirt freshman runner/return specialist Marvin Townes, who returned 4 kicks for 176 yards on the day. Townes also added 32 yards on seven carries, including a late two-yard scoring run.

The 44.0-yard return average broke the old single-game record for the Pirates formerly held by Anthony Collins, who averaged 34.5 yards on six returns in a 1980 game against Florida State.

"The blocking was there," Townes noted. "It's like everything was perfect. I just ran hard tried to get my team in good field position so that it would be an easy drive."

Unlike last week, when Wake took advantage of mistakes and seemed to have ECU cornered at every turn, the Pirates won the war of turnovers and field position.  The Green Wave coughed the ball up four times, while the Pirates suffered no turnovers on the afternoon.

The give-aways loomed large for Tulane, which piled up 429 yards of its own, including 288 through the air. Running back Mewelde Moore tallied 107 yards rushing for the Wave, which had little trouble moving the ball between the 30s against the Pirates.

But for much of the day, the Pirate defense held in the red zone, including a particularly strategic occasion when Reggie Hemphill's interception of a Patrick Ramsey pass deep in ECU territory in the closing seconds of the first half preserved a 20-7 lead going into the locker room.

Tulane came into the contest averaging 26 points per game per contest, but failed to approach its average until the outcome was settled and subs were on the field.

"We held their offense to 17 points with our starters, which I was pleased with," said Logan, who picked up his 60th win as ECU's head coach.

Tulane kept things too interesting for comfort for much of the contest, pulling to within 23-17 in the third quarter when Ramsey found receiver Roydell Williams from six yards out. The scoring opportunity had arisen when punter Jared Preston couldn't handle a low snap from freshman long snapper Brandon Howard and was chased out of bounds.

But that's as close as it got as Logan opened his bag of tricks, pulling out a reverse pass that was executed perfectly by junior H-back Richard Alston, who found a wide-open Arnie Powell on a 54-yard scoring strike.

The play seemed to rip the heart out of the Tulane defense.  From that point on, ECU's offensive line took control, opening holes for three fourth-quarter scores, all on the ground, to put the Green Wave away.

After Henry's 92-yard run, the senior from Clinton struck again, adding a 54 yarder that set up Art Brown's 15-yard touchdown bolt up the middle with 5:08 to play to stretch ECU's lead to 44-17.

"Our offensive line played great," Logan added. "When we play well, our guys are a fun bunch to watch."

The Pirates got to work early, driving 47 yards on 11 plays before having to settle for a 31-yard Kevin Miller field goal, his first of the season.

East Carolina extended its lead to 10-0 when junior linebacker/running back Christshawn Gilliam snared a Patrick Ramsey pass and returned it 30 yards for the score.

"I was watching (Mewelde) Moore," Gilliam said about the interception. "You know, they run their whole offense around him."

The Pirates went to work again early in the second quarter on Henry's first touchdown of the day, a one-yard plunge, culminating a seven-play 80-yard drive. The score was preceded by Garrard's 58-yard pass to junior receiver Aaron Harris.

Garrard finished the day with 166 yards through the air on 10-21 passes, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. It was the first time in 29 games that Garrard hasn't either thrown or rushed for a touchdown.

The Durham senior didn't seem to mind.

"It's just a good feeling," he said, obviously happy with the win.

The Pirates hope to repeat that feeling next Saturday when they travel to Syracuse to play the Orangemen in the Carrier Dome. It will mark the third time in the last four games that the Pirates have played indoors.

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02/23/2007 01:41:47 AM

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