Dec. 27, 2000 - Attendance: 33,899
HOUSTON, Texas - Senior return specialist Keith Stokes had the lightening-quick ignitions, including a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Junior quarterback David Garrard, with two touchdowns, and the defense of coordinator Tim Rose, with two interceptions by Kinston sophomore Kelly Hardy and five sacks, had the sustaining backbone.
Combined, Texas Tech of the mighty Big 12 Conference didn't have much of a chance after halftime against East Carolina. The Conference USA runner-up Pirates raced ahead by 34 points and held off a second-half rally Wednesday night, defeating the Red Raiders 40-27 in front of 33,899 at the inaugural galleryfurniture.com Bowl in the Astrodome.
"I knew they tried to angle the kicks, and my men back there, they made good blocks," Stokes said. "I catch the ball and follow my blockers, and next thing you know I'm in the end zone. That was the spark we needed."
The Pirates (8-4), who had never played the Red Raiders (7-6) previously, led 34-7 after a first half in which they out-gained Tech 304-116 in total yards. In addition to Stokes' fireworks, Garrard ran 6 yards for a score and threw a touchdown pass of 44 yards to junior Derek Collier; and junior Leonard Henry ran for two scores of 1 yard each.
"It was a good victory," Henry said. "We came into this game knowing that we had to make a statement for losing a bowl game last year. It seems like it's been a total distraction with everything going on outside. But I felt like we as a team came together when times were rough and what we did was sent out and did what we had to do, which is win ball games."
Kevin Miller kicked third-quarter field goals of 36 and 35 yards as the Pirates carried a 40-14 lead into the fourth quarter, a period in which they outscored opponents 94-57 during the regular season. Texas Tech, which didn't beat a team with a winning record all season, got as close as the final margin with the final two of Kliff Kingsbury's four touchdown passes. Kingsbury threw 17 yards to Cole Roberts and 3 yards to Derek Dorris, the latter with 6:44 to go.
"The moment that game was over last year, it was very bitter for the kids," ECU head coach Steve Logan said of a 28-14 loss to Texas Christian in the Mobile Alabama Bowl. "They were on a mission to come and win a bowl game. We did have great focus."
Stokes was a one-man wrecking crew in the first half, even though the Red Raiders were more than aware of his exploits. Eventually, Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach instructed punter Clinton Greathouse not to kick it to him. Stokes finished with an ECU bowl-record 187 yards in total kick returns. He also had 33 yards rushing and 46 yards passing, finishing with 266 allpurpose yards.
Garrard had 262 total yards, throwing for 229 yards (17-of-27, two interceptions) and rushing for 33.
In the post-game celebration, Garrard was awarded the game's MVP and offensive player awards, Stokes got the special teams award and junior Bernard Williams the defensive player award.
Williams made three of his five tackles for losses totaling 30 yards, including two sacks. Junior Pernell Griffin led the team with seven tackles, junior linebacker Greg LeFever added a sack and senior Devone Claybrooks, senior Mbayo Ahmadu, sophomore Damane Duckett and redshirt freshman Kent Nealy each were credited with one-half sack.
The Pirates silenced the heralded passing game of Kingsbury and the Red Raiders in the opening 30 minutes, sacking him three times and limiting him to 99 yards on 14-of-22 accuracy. Stokes' 37-yard kickoff return gave ECU a jolt of momentum from the opening kick. Garrard capped a 10-play march with a 6-yard run. Stokes added his 71-yard punt return with 7:51 to go for a 13-0 cushion.
Henry scored his two touchdowns sandwiching a 44-yard TD bomb from Garrard to Derek Collier as the lead escalated to 34-0.
"This is one that I wanted to get, winning a bowl," Garrard said. "This is a big step going into next season and spring ball. The guys are going to be excited all the way into next season."
ECU - Garrard 6 run (kick blocked), 11:31
ECU - Stokes 71 punt return (Miller kick), 7:51
ECU - Henry 1 run (Miller kick), 4:26
ECU - Collier 44 pass from Garrard (Miller kick), 14:16
ECU - Henry 1 run (Miller kick), 4:27
TT - Dorris 7 pass from Kingsbury (Birkholz kick), 1:39
TT - Jones 65 pass from Kingsbury (Birkholz kick), 13:11
ECU - FG Miller 36, 8:44
ECU - FG Miller 35, 3:52
TT - Roberts 17 pass from Kingsbury (Birkholz kick),14:41
TT - Dorris 3 pass from Kingsbury (pass failed), 6:44
Rushing: TT - R. Williams 9-55, S. Williams 2-18, Munlin 2-5, Kingsbury
10-(-16). ECU - Henry 20-92, Burns 6-52, Stokes 2-33,
Garrard 13-33, Gilliam 3-24, Brown 3-11, Helms 2-9, Harris 1-0,
Passing: TT - Kingsbury 31-49-2, 307. ECU - Garrard 17-27-1, 229.
Receiving: TT - Dorris 7-53, Jones 6-147, Baker 4-52, S. Williams 4-(-7), Welker 3-13, Roberts 2-23, Francis 2-13, R. Williams 2-5, Scovell 1-8. ECU - Stokes 5-46, Harris 3-76, Burns 2-18, Copper 2-12, Collier