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Inside Game Day
Thursday, November 13, 2014

By Al Myatt

Time to deal with tough loss

Al Myatt
2014 Bonesville.net
All rights reserved.

Ruff Post-game Audio...

CINCINNATI The schedule will soon compact for East Carolina's 2014 football team with three games in 13 days.

The Pirates will host Tulane on Saturday, Nov. 22 to start the close to the regular season. They'll play at Tulsa the following Friday before returning home to face Central Florida on Thursday, Dec. 4.

There will be a little time before the focus shifts to preparations for the Green Wave and the span will have some value. After the game-ending sequence Thursday night, ECU could use an interim to regain its composure and focus its competitiveness on the next challenge.

What had the look of a dramatic and vital American Athletic Conference football win for the Pirates against Cincinnati on Thursday night at Paul Brown Stadium transformed into an agonizing loss over the final 62 seconds.

The Bearcats won a showdown for a share of the AAC lead by a 54-46 margin after a Shane Carden keeper with 1:02 remaining had put the Pirates ahead, 46-45.

A pass interference call on Howard Wilder as he defended Justin Hardy in the end zone set up Carden's scoring run.

A fumble recovery by Lamar Ivey at the Bearcats' 27-yard line led to ECU's go-ahead possession.

Cincinnati inexplicably went for a fourth-and-3 at its own 33 with just over two minutes to go.

Bearcats quarterback Gunner Kiel ran an option to the left after a pair of timeouts. Kiel had initially tried to get the Pirates to encroach.

Then came some fourth down foolishness.

"We were kind of in a man coverage and I saw the quarterback rolling off," said Ivey, who had already picked off a pair of Kiel passes. "I got off the block to make the tackle on the quarterback or running back. When he pitched it, I just saw it hit the ground so I just went ahead and jumped on it."

Chris Hairston ran for five yards to the Cincinnati 22 on first down with ECU trailing 45-40.

Cam Worthy was a pass interference victim to move the ball to the Bearcats 7.

After three incompletions, Wilder drew a late flag and the Pirates got a first down at the Cincinnati 2-yard line.

Carden scored from two yards out on second down to give ECU its second lead. The Pirates were down 17-6 early in the second quarter and rallied to go in front 20-17. The Bearcats forged a 38-20 advantage in the second half before ECU came back again.

"It was a zone read on the end to an option," Carden said. "The end crashed and the linebacker flew out. He was playing the pitch man pretty well. I was able to get underneath him."

Carden completed 35 of 61 passes for 418 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Justin Hardy had 15 receptions for 181 yards to pull within four catches of breaking the Football Bowl Subdivision career record of 349 receptions by Ryan Broyles of Oklahoma (2008-11).

Breon Allen had 12 carries for 129 yards and a TD. Marquez Grayson and Hardy also had rushing scores.

ECU left a little too much time for Kiel after a Carden pass for a two-point conversion and a three-point advantage fell incomplete.

Kiel completed three passes for 35 yards to set up a career-longest 47-yard field goal by Andrew Gantz to put the hosts ahead 48-46 with 15 seconds left.

A desperation trick play by the Pirates with nine seconds to go resulted in a fumble that was returned 20 yards for a touchdown by Terrell Hartsfield as the game ended.

"It was a tough game," Carden said. "Both teams knew how much was on the line. You put your heart in something like this and it's hard when you come out on the wrong end."

The Pirates slipped to 6-3 overall and 3-2 in league play. Cincinnati (6-3) and Memphis are each 4-1 in the conference. Central Florida is 3-1 in the AAC with a home game tonight against Tulsa.

The temperature was 27 degrees at kickoff with southwest winds at seven miles per hour.

The Pirates were equipped for the conditions and wore new white helmets. There were four heated benches on the sideline.

ECU played better under adverse conditions than in the rain, wind and chill that accompanied a 20-10 loss at Temple on Nov. 1.

Penalties decreased from the game against the Owls. Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill had officials work practice three times since the loss in Philadelphia when ECU was flagged 12 times for 120 yards. ECU drew five penalties for 38 yards against the Bearcats.

The Pirates lost five fumbles at Temple. That number diminished to two as the Pirates played in an NFL venue for the second straight week.

"Some tough things happened," McNeill said. "The kids rose up and played the next play."

In successive games, the Pirates have seen their major bowl hopes deflated, they've fallen out of the rankings and they've lost control of their fate in terms of winning an AAC title.

All of that is tough for young men who have worked hard to be in those positions.

Now it's time to evaluate another loss and make improvements. The good thing about the schedule at this point is that there will be some added time to do that.

"It's going to sting for a little while," Carden said. "But we've got three (regular season) games left and we've got to finish off the season strong."

E-mail Al Myatt.

PAGE UPDATED 11/14/14 04:28 PM.

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