East Carolina Edges UCF, 38-31
Nov. 19, 2011
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Sophomore running back Torrance Hunt rushed for a 56-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter, helping East Carolina secure a 38-31 Conference USA victory over UCF Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
"This is a resilient bunch," head coach Ruffin McNeill said. "We've worked hard this year. We have faced some tough times but we continued to work extremely hard and practice extremely hard. Tonight was a reward for these guys. I'm very proud of this group, players and coaches. I'm happy for the seniors."
A back and forth contest ended with the Pirates (5-6, 4-3) out-gaining the Knights (4-7, 2-5) 389-313. ECU recorded 203 of those yards through the air, pushing its 2011 total to 3,148. It is the third-straight season, and sixth in program history, surpassing 3,000 aerial yards. As a result, four of East Carolina's five touchdowns occurred via the passing game. UCF totaled just 198 yards through the air, marking the sixth-straight contest the Pirates have held an opponent under 200 aerial yards.
The Knights owned a nine-minute advantage in time of possession, but the Pirate defense quelled many of UCF's lengthy drives to keep the visitors off the scoreboard. ECU was able to apply sustained pressure in the Knight backfield, recording a season high-tying four sacks and a campaign-best eight tackles for loss.
Hunt ran for a career-best 100 yards in the contest, averaging 11.1 yards per carry. His game-winning touchdown was the longest rush of the Ruffin McNeil era and the furthest since Norman Whitley posted a 69-yard run at Tulsa on Dec. 6, 2008, in the C-USA Championship Game.
Senior quarterback Dominique Davis completed 19 of his 31 attempts for 203 yards, moving into sole possession of first place on the East Carolina career completions chart with 695. James Pinkney was the previous record holder with 687 conversions. Davis also rushed for a personal-best 62 yards, 37 of which were in the first quarter. His previous best was a 43-yard performance against Tulane on Oct. 29.
"I think the mixture of Zico [Pasut] and Torrance running the ball with Dominique checking off and getting us into the right plays was big tonight," McNeill stated. "We used a lot of our weapons."
UCF opened the scoring on its first possession, driving 70 yards in 12 plays and finding the endzone when Jeff Godfrey hooked up with Adam Nissley on a three-yard strike to put the Knights in front 7-0. ECU responded three minutes later when sophomore inside receiver Justin Jones caught his first touchdown pass of the season - a nine-yard toss from Davis at the 3:23 mark. Senior placekicker Michael Barbour then gave the Pirates the lead with no time remaining in the quarter, nailing a 36-yard field goal.
After forcing UCF to punt on its initial drive of the second quarter, East Carolina extended its advantage to 17-7 when Davis found freshman inside receiver Justin Hardy from seven yards out to cap a quick six-play drive. However, the Knights scored 10 unanswered points over the final 10:45 of the half to forge a deadlock at 17.
UCF ran 44 plays for 193 yards and limited the Pirates to 126 on 27 attempts before intermission. The Knights also converted seven of their 11 tries on third down while East Carolina failed to move the chains on third down six times.
The teams played an even third quarter with ECU scoring an offensive touchdown and UCF capitalizing on an interception deep in Pirate territory to make it a 24-24 contest heading into the final interval. Sophomore outside receiver Reese Wiggins turned in East Carolina's longest play from scrimmage this season with an 84-yard reception from Davis which temporarily put ECU in front.
Beginning a drive at its own 28 yard-line, East Carolina took it the distance in 10 plays, taking 3:35 off the clock and using a 10-yard pass from Davis to Wiggins to take a 31-24 lead. The Pirates were able to hold onto the advantage until a Pasut fumble was recovered by the Knights' Brandon Alexander at the ECU 19. On the next play, Blake Bortles threw a 19-yard scoring strike to J.J. Worton which tied the game with just 3:49 remaining.
A third-down conversion on the Pirates' next possession set up Hunt's deciding score, but the visitors made the final minutes interesting by taking the ensuing kickoff 72 yards to the East Carolina 28-yard line. A personal foul call tacked on 14 yards to the end of the run, setting UCF up at the 14. However, the Knights were unable to gain a yard in three plays as sophomore free safety Damon Magazu sealed the win for ECU with an interception in the endzone.
"I'm really proud of the defense," McNeill said. "That was a maligned group last year. They've done a great job in the offseason and continue to develop more confidence each week."
East Carolina completes regular-season play next weekend at Marshall, looking to secure bowl eligibility for the sixth-straight campaign. Kickoff at Joan C. Edwards Stadium is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., with the CBS Sports Network providing the live broadcast.