Dec. 30, 1995 - Attendance: 47,398
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Consider the business finished. East Carolina returned to the Liberty Bowl. And this time it won.
A 19-13 victory over Stanford on a Saturday that started cool and sunny and quickly turned cold and wet culminated the Pirates' quest for vindication from last year's debacle against Illinois. That game ended 30-0, but also started a mission to take care of "Unfinished Business."
And though it will not go down as one of the more picturesque wins in ECU history, it was quite satisfying for the many purple-clad fans in the crowd of around 30,000 (47,398 tickets were sold) who had to grit their teeth to the exasperating end.
Despite clamping down on the high-scoring Cardinal offense all day, the Pirates could never create a comfort zone and had to make one last stand to escape. Stanford, down just six despite a day full of frustration, suddenly found itself with a chance to win in the final minute. A 40-yard kickoff return by Damon Dunn gave Stanford life. Quarterback Mark Butterfield then completed two passes and scrambled three yards to move the ball to the 26.
Stanford burned its last timeout after a six-yard pass to Mark Harris. Twenty seconds remained. Could the Cardinal, left for dead, possibly pull this out? Not quite. Butterfield's pass on third and one was incomplete, then his fourthdown pass to Brian Manning on a slant pattern was dropped. ECU limited Stanford to a season-low 211 yards, including just 72 on the ground. The Pirates also forced four turnovers--two interceptions andtwo fumbles--and converted those into 10 points.
"We knew we had a good defense and we just wanted to prove it today," said Daren Hart, who had a 39-yard interception return for a score and 10 tackles and was named the Pirates' defensive player of the game.
These Pirates looked like imposters, too. They won not by Marcus Crandell's arm or Jerris McPhail's legs but with defense and field goals. Yes, field goals. Junior Chad Holcomb, named ECU's offensive MVP, set Liberty Bowl and personal single-game records with four field goals. He had three in the second period, including a career-best 46 yarder to help the Pirates to a 16-7 lead. He then added a 34-yarder with 1:50 left. But no offensive touchdowns. None.
"It's been a long, long time since that's happened," ECU head coach Steve Logan said of winning without an offensive touchdown. "That's a first in the seven years I've been at East Carolina."
Crandell completed just 19 of 46 passes for 218 yards. He was intercepted once and sacked twice. McPhail rushed for 92 yards on 27 carries. The Cardinal cracked ECU's defense only once, driving 69 yards in 13 plays to get within 10-7. Butterfield kept the drive alive by zipping a 31-yard pass to Manning on third and 23, moving the ball to the ECU 7.
Adam Salina scored the touchdown on a one-yard run. ECU resorted to a bit of trickery on its next possession, getting a 23-yard run from Morris Foreman on a fake punt. The Pirates reached the 7 but had to settle for a 26-yard Holcomb field goal.
Holcomb added a 41-yarder with three seconds left in the half as ECU cashed in on a fumble recovery by Travis Darden.
Kwame Ellis had Stanford back in it in a flash. First, he scooped up a blocked punt by Nicodemous Watts and ran two yards for a score to make it 16-13. The PAT kick sailed wide.
Two plays later, Ellis picked off a Crandell pass intended for Troy Smith at the Stanford 49. The Cardinal reached the ECU 39 but had to punt.
ECU - Hart 39 interception return (Holcomb kick)
ECU - FG Holcomb 46
ECU - FG Holcomb 26
STAN - Salina 1 run (Abrams kick)
ECU - FG Holcomb 41
STAN - Ellis 2 blocked punt (kick failed)
ECU - FG Holcomb 34
Rushing: Stanford - Bookman 13-52, Mitchell 8-30. ECU - McPhail 27-92, Crandell 7-(-6).
Passing: Stanford - Butterfield 15-27-2, 139. ECU - Crandell 19-46-1, 218.
Receiving: Stanford - Manning 3-42, Harris 3-37. ECU - Richards 5-59, Galloway 4-70.