East Carolina Falters At UTEP, 22-17
Nov. 12, 2011
EL PASO, Texas - A late interception on East Carolina's final drive of the game allowed UTEP to seal a 22-17 Conference USA win Saturday night at the Sun Bowl. ECU was vying for its third-straight road triumph after downing Memphis and Navy in consecutive weeks earlier this season.
The Pirates (4-6, 3-3) were limited to 254 yards, 133 of them through the air, while the Miners (5-5, 2-4) racked up 241 on the ground on their way to a total offensive output of 429. UTEP also held the upper hand in first downs (23-15) and time of possession (31:58-28:02).
Miner running back Joe Banyard recorded 140 rushing yards, including the game-winning 77-yard touchdown scamper in the final quarter. Sophomore Michael Dobson and freshman Justin Hardy accounted for both of the ECU touchdowns while another pair of underclassmen, sophomore running back Torrance Hunt and freshman inside receiver Danny Webster, paced East Carolina on the ground and through the air with respective 49 and 48-yard performances.
Defensively, sophomore inside linebacker Kyle Tudor posted 14 tackles and was joined in double figures by senior defensive back Bradley Jacobs (11) and freshman outside linebacker Jake Geary (10). Tudor and Geary were also credited with quarterback hurries during the contest.
The Pirates took the lead first thanks to some solid play by their defensive and special teams units. After a goal-line stand by East Carolina prevented UTEP from finding the endzone, ECU went three-and-out on its ensuing drive but was able to take advantage of Miner return man Mike Edwards' fumble on the punt return as Rahkeem Morgan recovered the ball at the UTEP 34-yard line.
After seven plays in Miner territory, Dobson scored on a two-yard rushing play to make the score 7-0 with 5:11 showing on the first-quarter clock.
Dekota Warren had a chance to put UTEP on the board early in the second quarter, but his 35-yard field goal attempt sailed wide to the right. The Miners did score, however, when Darren Woodard intercepted senior quarterback Dominique Davis on a first down play in Pirate territory minutes later and took it back 44 yards to slice the ECU lead to 7-6. Warren would miss the extra point attempt, leaving East Carolina clinging to a slim one-point cushion.
An Edwards 41-yard punt return aided UTEP's second touchdown of the contest as the Miners were set up at the Pirate 34-yard line. Vernon Frazier accounted for 22 of the remaining yards before Leilyon Myers scored from two yards away with 9:08 left before the half to give UTEP its first lead at 13-7.
The Miners would then extend their advantage to nine when Steven Valadez nailed a 46-yard field goal on fourth down. That conversion completed the first-half scoring as the drive, which began one yard from UTEP's goal line, sapped 5:29 off the clock.
After forcing UTEP to punt deep in its own territory on its first possession of the third quarter, ECU quickly marched 54 yards down the field and scored when Davis found Hardy who made an acrobatic catch at the one and reached the ball over the goal line to pull his team within 16-14. Then, after stopping the Miners on fourth down, Michael Barbour capped a 16-play possession with a 19-yard field goal to give the Pirates the lead with 1:09 left in the period.
Jacob Geary came up with a big defensive play early in the fourth quarter when he forced a fumble from Edwards which was recovered by Damon Magazu as UTEP was driving far into East Carolina territory. The Pirates were unable to take advantage of the miscue, however, as Banyard ripped off the deciding touchdown run after ECU punted the ball away to allow the Miners to regain the lead. The score would stand at 22-17 after UTEP failed on a two-point conversion attempt.
Another fourth-down stop by the Pirate defense gave East Carolina one last chance to rally for the winning score with just under three minutes left, but Travaun Nixon intercepted Davis on a third-and-long play to seal the win for his team.
East Carolina closes its home schedule next Saturday, Nov. 19, hosting UCF. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium with Fox Sports Net providing the live broadcast.