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Home drought ends in dramatic fashion

AP Sports Writer

GAME 5 VITALS: Tulane at East Carolina

 • Box Score & Statistics
 • AP: Home drought ends in dramatic fashion
 • O'Brien: Pirates resurrect sentimental script
 • Myatt: Foot of fate true; Spurrier checks in
  Post-Game Audio: Coaches & players
 • 2004 ECU schedule, scores, attendance, TV
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• STEVE BALLARD: New Leader Takes Charge

• SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door

• KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams

• BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate


GREENVILLE — From the day he was hired, John Thompson brought boundless energy and infectious optimism to the East Carolina sideline.

On Saturday, his Pirates finally had a reason to feel the same way.

Cam Broadwell kicked a 30-yard field goal with 12 seconds left to lift East Carolina past Tulane 27-25, ending a nine-game home losing streak in dramatic — if not up-and-down — fashion.

Chris Johnson ran for 158 yards and two first-half touchdowns for the Pirates (1-4, 1-2 Conference USA), who earned their first win at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in nearly two years. It also marked the first home win for Thompson, who had lost 15 of 16 games since becoming ECU's head coach last season.

``There's nothing better than a celebration in a victorious locker room,'' Thompson said.

``These guys ought to feel good about themselves. They haven't had that opportunity. But they've been doing the right things.''

Thompson had lost all eight of his games here in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, earning his only win as ECU coach at Army last October. But that frustrating streak ended Saturday behind Johnson's excellent first half and a solid defensive performance throughout against the Green Wave (1-3, 0-2).

Johnson — who had 31 carries on the day and rushed for 107 yards before the break — had a 56-yard touchdown run early in the game. He also scored from 5 yards out in the second quarter by diving for the pylon in the left corner of the end zone.

Meanwhile, the Pirates' defense — one of the nation's worst by allowing 43 points per game — gave up only two offensive scores. That allowed East Carolina to overcome two special teams gaffes that led to Tulane touchdowns.

Then, after surrendering the lead late, the Pirates put together an eight-play, 50-yard scoring drive to earn their first home win since beating a 22nd-ranked Texas Christian team in November 2002.

Jamar Flournoy, a Pirates linebacker who had four tackles and a key stop on a fourth-quarter 2-point conversion, is in his first season here after transferring from Hutchinson Community College in Alabama. But the junior heard plenty from his teammates this week about the losing streak.

``I've been feeling what they're saying, especially the seniors,'' Flournoy said. ``A lot of guys were like, 'Man, you just don't know how it feels. We haven't won in a long time.'''

That was apparent as East Carolina fans grew louder and louder in the game's final minutes. When Lester Ricard's hail-Mary pass fell incomplete to end the game, the Pirates players celebrated at midfield before walking to the student section to thank their fans.

The Pirates led 21-7 at halftime, but the Green Wave got some momentum by returning a fumble on the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Tulane went ahead with two fourth-quarter TD passes from Ricard, taking a 25-24 lead with 1:51 to play.

But instead of wilting under a here-we-go-again feeling, the Pirates responded with the kind of efficient drive that hasn't been seen often in the Thompson era. James Pinkney completed two passes for 28 yards and scrambled for a first down near midfield, and Johnson rushed three times for 15 yards as the clock dipped under 30 seconds.

Broadwell, who also had a 44-yard field goal early in the fourth, put the Pirates on top with the 30-yarder.

``I felt good because we do that two-minute drill everyday during the week,'' Pinkney said. ``As a quarterback that's what you want. I wanted the ball in my hands at the end of the game.''

Tulane's offense managed just 56 yards in the first half, but got a boost thanks to its play on special teams. Gabe Ratcliff recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown in the first quarter, while Israel Route added the 14-yard fumble return for a score to start the second half.

Those were Tulane's only touchdowns before Ricard found Roydell Williams for a 36-yard TD pass to cut the deficit to 24-19 midway through the fourth quarter.

On the next possession, Ricard completed three straight passes on a 60-yard drive, the last finding Chris Bush over the middle for a 24-yard TD and the 25-24 lead.

But Ricard was taken down by Flournoy on the conversion attempt, the third failed 2-point attempt of the half for the Green Wave. Those missed attempts — along with an interception by Ricard in the end zone to end a second-half drive — proved fatal.

It dropped the Green Wave to 0-5 all-time in Greenville.

``We needed a stop in ECU's last drive and we didn't get it,'' Tulane coach Chris Scelfo said. ``Our guys rallied back, but this is a tough place to play and that's one of the reasons we have never won here.''

02/23/2007 10:53 AM

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. contributed to this report.  All rights reserved.  This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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