Pirates Down Tigers 49-27
Sept. 11, 2010
GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) - East Carolina junior quarterback Dominique Davis accounted for five touchdowns and Jonathan Williams had a career day, collecting personal bests in rushing yards (109), receptions (six) and receiving yards (50) as the Pirates (2-0, 2-0 Conference USA) defeated Memphis (0-2, 0-1) 49-27 Saturday afternoon.
Davis threw three touchdown passes and ran for two scores, keeping first-year head coach Ruffin McNeill unbeaten at his alma mater while giving the two-time defending Conference USA champion a fast start in league play. McNeill became just the fifth coach in program history to start his Pirate career 2-0 and the first since Bill Lewis defeated Bowling Green and Cincinnati in 1989.
Derek Blacknall returned an interception 46 yards for a touchdown in a dominating start for the Pirates, who last week needed a last-play touchdown pass to beat Tulsa 51-49 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. This time, the Pirates ran out to a 28-3 first-quarter lead and coasted the rest of the way in front of another big home crowd.
The 100 points scored in the first two games this season by the Pirates are the most tallied in the initial two games of a year in program history. The previous high was 75 in 1953, when East Carolina downed Wilson Teachers 41-0 and Lenoir-Rhyne 34-0.
"Even I heard, 'Good game last week,' as I was walking to the stadium, so I know the players got it on campus," McNeill said. "And deservedly so, but that's one thing I did worry about: them having a hangover from that win."
That wasn't a problem, as the Tigers never got within two possessions after the opening period.
"We got off to a very slow start," first-year head coach Larry Porter said. "We put our defense in some tough situations."
The Pirates have some positives to build on heading into a three-game road trip. First comes a pair of games against No. 13 Virginia Tech and instate rival North Carolina of the Atlantic Coast Conference, then a league road game at Southern Mississippi.
Unlike last week when the offense had to make all the big plays, the defense came up with three turnovers in the first quarter that led to touchdowns. The Pirates converted their three forced turnovers into three touchdowns. In seven games since 2009, ECU has forced 17 turnovers and converted them into 13 scores with nine touchdowns.
"We had a lot of opportunities and we should've scored some more points," offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. "That was the first time in a game that all three sides have really got on a run and strung some series together. Last week it was just hit or miss."
Davis turned in another solid performance leading the no-huddle attack McNeill and Riley brought from Texas Tech. After throwing for 383 yards and five scores against Tulsa, Davis found Giavanni Ruffin and Dwayne Harris for first-quarter scores and completed 13 of his first 14 passes on the way to 244 yards. Davis' two rushing touchdowns made him the first Pirate signal caller to rush for touchdowns in consecutive games since Rob Kass Oct. 6 and 13, 2007, against UCF and UTEP.
On the opening play of the contest, Harris hauled in a five-yard reception, making him the first player in East Carolina history to reach 2,000 receiving yards. He is already the Pirate career leader in receptions (180) and receiving yards, finished the day with 2,053 career yards.
"All we have to do is focus on the little things and the rhythm will catch," Davis said. "It can catch after the first play."
Meanwhile, a defense that returned just two starters and allowed 49 points last week got off to its own fast start. First it recovered a botched snap deep in Memphis territory to set up Davis' first TD pass, then Blacknall grabbed a badly overthrown pass from Cannon Smith over the middle and raced to the end zone for a 14-0 lead just five-and-a-half minutes in.
East Carolina also recovered a fumble on a handoff between Smith and Jerrell Rhodes to set up Williams' two-yard run for the 28-3 lead.
"The confidence level is boosted tremendously," said linebacker Dustin Lineback, who had a career-high 13 tackles, including three for a loss after having just one-and-a-half for a loss during his first three seasons at ECU. "Sacks are going to happen and picks are going to happen, so we've just got to execute the defense as called and we'll be successful like that."
The 2-0 start for East Carolina is only its third since 1990 as the Pirates were undefeated in the opening two games in 1999 (West Virginia, Duke) and 2008 (Virginia Tech, West Virginia). ECU also opens league play at 2-0 for the second-straight season and only the fourth time since joining the league in 1997. ECU was also 2-0 in 2001 and 2002, defeating Tulane and Army to open C-USA action.