known for their hoot, but it’s crow on the menu for yours truly.
East Carolina lost 18-17 to the Rice Owls, and I’ll be the first to
admit I was wrong. If you heard our pregame program Saturday, you
heard us criticize the Rice defense a lot. I like my crow well
It was, in fact, the Rice defense that proved to be the difference in
the ball game holding the Pirates to 0 yards of offense in the fourth
quarter, and only 90 yards and seven points in the entire second
In games as close as that one, you can pick out many individual plays
that could have changed the outcome. ECU, in fact, missed a
33-yard field goal that would have changed it. The Pirates
also suffered a 3rd-quarter safety that would have made the
The bottom line for the Pirates, however, comes down to offensive
execution late in the ball game, something the Pirates didn’t do very
well. Chris Johnson scored on a 43-yard run late in the
third to lift the Pirates to a 17-9 lead. Little did they know
that the offense was done for the day.
The Pirates got the ball three times in the fourth quarter and gained 0
yards. Three times ECU went three and out, when they needed it
most, against the league's worst defense.
Certainly, the Pirates' defense played well enough to win.
Despite allowing a season high 458 yards, Greg Hudson’s unit produced
two key interceptions, and one turnover on downs late in the game,
opening the door for the offense to seal the deal.
Although the defense allowed a season high yardage, they did enough to
win by holding the Owls to only 16 points offensively. Not bad
for a team averaging around 33 per. It was a lack of production
by the Pirate offense, and a surprising Rice defense, that did the
What happened to the Pirates' offense? Probably the same thing
that happened to Pirates' running backs Brandon Fractious and Dominique
Lindsay, who were nowhere to be found in the second half. For
whatever reason, the Pirates went almost exclusively with Chris Johnson
in the backfield. Not that Johnson played all that badly, but how
does a guy carry the ball ten times for 83 yards in the first half, and
not get a single carry after halftime?
Perhaps the key stat in this ball game, and this season for that
matter, is time of possession. ECU is now 6-0 when winning that
statistical battle, 0-5 when they lose it. The Pirates had an
edge 17:25 to 12:35 in the first half, but lost for the game 32 minutes
to 27. In other words, Rice dominated the second half grinding 20
minutes off the clock with their offense on the field, and holding the
Pirates offensive unit to just ten.
The postseason picture that once looked as if it would include two
games for the Pirates, now may not even feature one. It is
conceivable that ECU loses to NC State, finishes 6-6, and is not
selected to play in a bowl game. Right now, Conference USA has
seven teams that could become “bowl eligible” by season's
end. Conference USA is tied into five bowl games, so
the teams that finish 6-6 leave their postseason lives in the hands of
a selection committee. If ECU can win over NC State, the Pirates
will definitely play in a bowl game. And if Marshall can take out
Southern Miss. in Hattiesburg Saturday, ECU will represent the East
division of Conference USA in the league championship game at Houston
on December 1st. Two "ifs" the Pirates didn’t want to, and didn’t
have to, deal with.