Momentum seemed to have shifted in favor of East Carolina when a 31-yard
field goal by Kevin Miller with 4:09 left tied the score at 29 at UAB on
The Pirates had the Blazers pinned back at their own 11-yard line after
the ensuing kickoff. There was plenty of time to get a stop and get the
winning points on the board.
The finish in last week’s 54-48 triple overtime win at Houston generated
that kind of optimism.
The Pirates may have gotten a bad break before Miller’s second field
goal. Art Brown was whistled down on third down short of first down
distance, but replays left doubt as to whether Brown’s knee had hit the
ground. ECU coach Steve Logan talked with the officials about the play but
obviously there is no appeal process in the college system.
Back to UAB’s possession that started at their own 11. The situation
looked promising for the Pirates but that was before the defense suddenly
gave the appearance that it was still reading the primer on the basics of
The drive was a testimony to willpower — UAB having the determination to
make something happen offensively with the game on the line and the Pirates
sadly lacking the ability to match or exceed the opposition’s performance in
ECU’s defense slowed the Blazers down just enough to leave the offense a
scant minute to get downfield for a possible tying touchdown.
Credit UAB for making plays when it counted. The less said about ECU’s
corresponding defensive effort, probably the better, but Blazers quarterback
Darrel Hackney made some telling comments after throwing for a career-high
“We knew coming into the game their defensive backs were suspect,”
Hackney said. “All week we said we needed to run the ball. Every pass play,
we felt like we could score. We knew they would play a soft zone. It was
just a matter of us tinkering.”
Certainly the ECU defensive players and coaches will strive for
improvement in practice this week.
The Pirates appeared to be pushing the panic button to a degree on
offense on their last possession. They had the time, timeouts and apparently
the chances to throw 15-yard out patterns and move the ball downfield,
especially with UAB retreating into its prevent defense.
But with Desmond Robinson in at quarterback for Paul Troth, who had
sustained a slight concussion earlier in the game, the Pirates seemed bent
on beating the Blazers deep. Then Robinson threw long into coverage for an
Game over, but not the season. ECU is actually still in contention for a
share of the Conference USA championship and a bowl berth.
The Pirates are back home to play nationally-ranked Texas Christian at 2
p.m. on Saturday. An ECU win would give the Horned Frogs their second league
loss and the Pirates would be one of as many as five teams with two C-USA
setbacks. Win out and ECU can do no worse than tie for the league title and
get the six wins required for bowl eligibility.
But there is now no margin for error.
There was better news for some former football Pirates over the weekend.
... Kenny Phillips, a Greenville product who played at ECU in 1982-83,
coached Division II Fayetteville State to a 17-14 win over Bowie State in
Winston-Salem for the Broncos’ first CIAA championship. Phillips, a former
assistant to Mike O’Cain at N.C. State, was credited with bringing a higher
degree of morale and discipline to the program in a 10-1 season, the best in
school history. ... And you had to be happy for Todd Berry, ECU’s offensive
coordinator in the Liberty Bowl championship season of 1995. Army, where
Berry is in his third year as head coach, was the only one among 117
Division I-A teams without a win going into Saturday’s games. The Cadets
came through to top Tulane 14-10 in New Orleans and snapped a 19-game road
losing streak. The outcome also halted an 8-game losing streak for the Black
Knights in C-USA play. ... Somebody figured to get a win when the Baltimore
Ravens, quarterbacked by Jeff Blake, matched up with the Miami Dolphins, for
whom Blake’s coach at ECU, Bill Lewis, is the secondary coach. Lewis and the
Dolphins moved atop the AFC East standings with a 26-7 win.