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The turnaround begins


From wire and staff reports

HOUSTON — A season in which a youthful East Carolina team had seen a lot of things go wrong veered sharply in the right direction Saturday as the Pirates came of age in the span of a few live-or-die minutes.

Trailing Conference USA opponent Houston by 17 points with little more than 12 minutes to go in the fourth period, sophomore quarterback Paul Troth and junior tailback Art Brown led a late offensive assault that thrust ECU squarely into the thick of the league title race.

Brown scored his fourth touchdown of the day on a 25-yard run in the third overtime to finish off a remarkable comeback for the Pirates, who did what they had to do to outgun the Cougars for a 54-48 victory at Robertson Stadium.

The win marked a major change in the fortunes of a squad peppered liberally with greenhorns and which had been struggling to grow up after losing Troth's and Brown's predecessors, David Garrard and Leonard Henry, to the NFL after last season.

Eleventh-year Pirate head coach Steve Logan acknowledged that he challenged his team in the locker room during intermission to mature or face a bleak future.

`"I told them at the half that the next 30 minutes was the whole season,"` Logan said. "I told them if you lay down the next 30 minutes, it's going to be over big time."

As it turned out, the Pirates' season is far from over.

Despite the growing pains during its 3-5 campaign, the victory over Houston leaves ECU (3-1 C-USA) as one of only three C-USA teams with but one league loss with less than a month to go in the regular season, thus setting the stage for the Pirates to blaze their own path towards the Liberty Bowl berth that goes to the conference champion.

ECU will collide head-on in coming weeks with the other one-loss contenders, Southern Miss (Hattiesburg, November 23) and Texas Christian (Fort Worth, November 30), in addition to facing league games at UAB next Saturday and a December 6 regular season finale at home versus Cincinnati.

Brown finished with 132 yards for ECU, overshadowing Joffrey Reynolds' school-record 300 rushing yards and four touchdowns for Houston (4-5, 2-4).

Reynolds' final score was a 25-yard run in the second overtime, forcing the third overtime.

East Carolina trailed 34-17 but tied the score at 34 with 2:34 left in regulation on a 1-yard TD by Brown.

East Carolina's Kevin Miller missed a 32-yard field goal with five seconds to play in regulation to send it into overtime.

Brandon Middleton caught a 24-yard pass from Nick Eddy to give Houston the advantage in the first overtime. But Torey Morris caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Paul Troth on fourth down to tie it again at 41 and force the second overtime.

Richard Alston caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Troth as ECU jumped ahead in the second overtime. But Reynolds raced 25 yards on the Cougars' first play to tie it again at 48.

In the third overtime, Anthony Evans fumbled on Houston's second play and Christshawn Gillian recovered at the 25. Brown then went the distance on the first play to give ECU the victory.

Reynolds had a school-record 40 carries, topping the 37 set twice previously by Paul Gipson in 1968, and his yardage topped Gipson's record of 282 set against Tulsa in 1968. Reynolds got his fourth straight 100-yard game and seventh of the season as the Cougars.

Troth hit 22-of-33 for 369 yards and three touchdowns.

Miller kicked two field goals and six extra points to move into first place on the Pirates' career scoring list with 258 points.

Reynolds broke 72 yards up the middle on the third play of the game to give Houston a 6-0 lead. It also put him over the 1,000-yard plateau for the season and was his 19th touchdown of the year. Reynolds has 1,261 yards for the season.

Reynolds, who moved into fifth place on the UH rushing list ahead of Alois Blackwell with 2,663 career yards, got his 21st touchdown of the year on a 9-yard run in the third quarter to give UH a 31-17 lead.

02/23/2007 10:51 AM

Copyright 2002  Associated Press contributed to this report.  All rights reserved.  This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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