Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014
By Al Myatt
Owls become Temple of Doom
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The statistics told a convoluted tale after 60 minutes of college football
at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, on Saturday.
When East Carolina outgains an
opponent 432 to 135 in total yardage, the assumption would be that the
Pirates won handily.
Turnovers and penalties
dictated a different result as Temple stunned ECU 20-10 in an American
Athletic Conference football game.
The Pirates fumbled seven times
on a cold and rainy afternoon, losing five.
When the yellow flags were
totaled up, ECU had 12 for 120 yards. When the Pirates were set to go for a
fourth-and-one at the Owls 35 on their first possession, an illegal
procedure moved the ball back five yards and ECU decided to punt.
The Pirates were moving the
ball again on the second series, having driven from their 45 to the Temple
24 when an ECU fumble was returned 63 yards for a touchdown by Tavon Young
as the Owls took a 7-0 lead with 7:20 left in the first quarter.
The play set a tone. Temple
(5-3, 3-2 AAC) came into the game having generated 19 turnovers, which
ranked ninth in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The scoop six put the hosts
in their comfort zone as much as the brisk conditions.
"You don't want to fall behind
on the road, even though we have at times," said Pirates coach Ruffin
McNeill. "Sometimes that ball takes a funny bounce. Instead of being down,
it popped out of the first defender's hands."
One need only to think back to
the 17-7 deficit at South Florida at halftime to figure that
ECU was still in it — even after the Owls went ahead 14-0 after recovering
Breon Allen's second lost fumble at the Pirates' 40.
A personal foul penalty on ECU
boosted Temple's second touchdown drive.
ECU managed to avoid a
scoreless first half as Warren Harvey kicked a 39-yard field goal with 5:20
left to cut Temple's lead to 14-3. The Pirates had to settle for three after
driving from their 17 to the Temple 20 where a chop block infraction created
The ECU defense went three and
out before the Pirates drove again — from their nine to the Temple 30 before
Chris Hairston lost a fumble.
Hairston ran 21 times for 153
yards, getting more work than customary after Allen's fumbles.
"We haven't played in these
conditions all season," Hairston said. "This was the first time. The ball
was a little more slippery than it usually is, but that's no excuse. We
still have to protect the ball. ... When you got into the pile, they were
all ripping the ball, trying to get it out. Every play. ... Our coaches
emphasize ball security a lot. You still have to hold on to the ball with
two hands in traffic."
The Owls blocked a 41-yard
field goal attempt by the Pirates after ECU had driven 57 yards on its first
series of the second half. Temple used a pass interference penalty and an
unsportsmanlike conduct infraction on the same play to move from the ECU 27
to the Pirates' 7 on their third scoring drive. A 2-yard scoring run by
Kenneth Harper pushed the Owls' led to 20-3 with 4:36 left in the third.
The chance for a comeback, such
as the one that produced a 28-17 win at USF, was diminishing.
A holding call negated a first
down at the ECU 40 on the Pirates' next possession. ECU closed within 20-10
with 2:15 remaining on a 2-yard run by Marquez Grayson but the ensuing
onside kick was unsuccessful.
"We didn't play Pirate
football," said mike linebacker Zeek Bigger, who came into the game as the
AAC leader in tackles. "We'll go home and get ready for our next game."
ECU quarterback Shane Carden
completed 24 of 41 passes for 217 yards.
"They handled the weather
better than we did," Carden said. "The ball was slicker in the first half
because it was raining harder. ... We just had too many negative plays that
The Pirates have outgained
every opponent this season, including host South Carolina (453-441) in ECU's
only previous loss (33-23) on Sept.
ECU (6-2, 3-1 AAC) visits
Cincinnati (5-3, 3-1) in a key league game on Thursday, Nov.13, at 7 p.m.
(ESPN2). That will be at Paul Brown Stadium, ECU's third NFL venue this
season, as the Bearcats' campus facility, Nippert Stadium, is being
renovated. McNeill said the Pirates would take a break and return to
practice Wednesday after meeting today.
The ECU coach said the program
is following a predetermined schedule in its preparation for an ESPN-driven
slate that still includes a Friday game at Tulsa (Nov. 28) and a Thursday
night home game with Central Florida on Dec. 4. The Pirates have one
traditional Saturday date remaining at home with Tulane on Nov. 22.
While a month in the national
rankings likely will come to an end, the Pirates still control their fate in
the AAC championship picture. Connecticut's 37-29 win over UCF leaves no
unbeaten teams in the league.
The conference race has always
been the focus.
"Like I told the team, I don't
coach for rankings and never have," McNeill said. "We have a vision and a
goal. I'm pleased with (the rankings) but we could never control how we're
"The season is not over. That's
the first thing you have to tell kids. We have games left and we can still
accomplish a lot."
McNeill said the loss would
present opportunities for teaching as game tape is evaluated and the Pirates
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10/20/15 04:04 AM.