The statistics told a convoluted tale after 60 minutes of college
football at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, on
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
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
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
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
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 a first-and-23.
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
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 hurt us."
The Pirates have outgained
every opponent this season, including host South Carolina (453-441) in
only previous loss (33-23) on
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 chosen.
"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 go forward.