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Promising start fizzles in second half

By The Associated Press

MEMPHIS — Struggling East Carolina strutted for awhile on Saturday, then buckled in the third quarter under pressure from a Memphis air and ground assault.

Danny Wimprine threw for 268 yards and four touchdowns as the Tigers defeated the Pirates 41-24 in a Conference USA battle.

The victory gives Memphis (6-3, 3-2 C-USA) its first six-win season since 1994, when Chuck Stobart ended his coaching tenure with a third consecutive 6-5 season. It also makes the Tigers eligible to make their first bowl appearance since the now-defunt Pasadena Bowl in 1971.

DeAngelo Williams rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown for the Tigers, who won their third straight. Williams has eight 100-yard games on the year and 1,173 yards rushing, both school season records.

It was tied 17-17 at the half after East Carolina (1-8, 1-4) put together its best opening quarter of the season. But the Pirates struggled in the third period as Memphis pulled away.

The Pirates' 1-8 record matched the program's worst start since 1986. East Carolina also put up a 1-8 mark in its nine-game 1957 season. The last time the team had a worse record was 1948 when it finished the season 0-9.

Memphis took the opening kickoff and drove to the Pirates 12 before settling for a 30-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.

East Carolina, which had not scored a touchdown in an opening period this season, took a 7-3 lead when Damarcus Fox took the ensuing kickoff back 94 yards. The Pirates would add another touchdown in the quarter on Marvin Townes' 15-yard run.

The Tigers' two first half touchdowns came on a 4-yard run by Williams and a 29-yard touchdown pass from Wimprine to Maurice Avery.

Memphis turned up the defensive pressure in the third period, causing two Pirate fumbles and holding East Carolina to 17 total yards in the period. The Tigers would end the day with seven sacks, tying a school record.

Offensively, Wimprine connected on third-quarter touchdown passes of 32 and 27 yards to Darron White. His fourth touchdown pass was his second to Avery, covering 51 yards. It was Wimprine's longest completion of the day and gave the Tigers a 41-17 lead with 4:39 left.

The Pirates scored a late touchdown on a 9-yard pass from reserve quarterback James Pickney to Terrance Copper.

02/23/2007 10:52 AM

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. contributed to this report.  All rights reserved.  This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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