Southern Miss jolts East Carolina 48-28

erobinson@newsobserver.comNovember 5, 2011 

Southern Miss East Carolina Football

East Carolina's Emanuel Davis (38) is unable to stop Southern Mississippi's Kendrick Presley (26) from scoring a touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 5, 2011, at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, N.C.

SCOTT DAVIS — Scott Davis - The Daily Reflector/AP

— East Carolina opened Saturday's contest with an inspiring scoring drive, but before long Southern Miss silenced the hopeful crowd at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium with its own electrifying brand of football.

Southern Miss (8-1, 3-1 C-USA) scored a season-high first half points, twice finding the end zone on returned interceptions, once on a returned punt, once on a returned block punt, once on a touchdown pass and once on a field goal. By the time they were done, the Golden Eagles had snapped the Pirates’ three-game winning streak and collected an impressive 48-28 victory before a disappointed home crowd of 50,345.

“It was very freaky,” ECU sophomore wide receiver Reese Wiggins said. “They scored three times without the defense touching the field.”

That’s never a good sign and the Pirates, who gained 420 total offensive yards, surrendered 299 yards and the most first-half points since yielding 42 points to West Virginia in 2004.

After tough non-conference losses to No. 10 South Carolina, No. 12 Virginia Tech and North Carolina earlier this season, the Pirates entered this game tied with Southern Miss in Conference USA’s eastern division and had an opportunity to take a one-game lead with three regular-season games remaining.

Instead the Pirates dropped to 4-5 overall and 3-2 in the conference, their quest of reaching the league’s championship game dampened though not dashed. They also need two wins to become bowl eligible.

“It’s very frustrating,” ECU senior quarterback Dominique Davis said. “But you have to keep playing.”

ECU cut their opponent’s lead to 38-21 with an 11-play, 40-yard drive midway through the third quarter. Davis – who completed 22 of 36 pass attempts for 262 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions – found receiver Justin Hardy on a three-yard pass play, but that and a fourth-quarter touchdown run wasn’t enough.

“We dug ourselves in a whole and couldn’t get back out,” said Davis, who was sacked five times and watched his team implode in the first half.

The Pirates opened the game with a flurry of quick-strike plays.

On the second play of the game, Davis dumped a screen pass to Wiggins, who cut inside then up the sideline for a 72 yard touchdown. The Pirates needed just 52 seconds to take a 7-0 lead.

The Pirates' defense then forced the Eagles to three-and-out and Davis and the offense took over. Mixing hard rushes and precise passes over the middle, they marched 66 yards to their opponent's 8.

But then the game changed.

Scanning the end zone for a receiver, Davis attempted a pass to senior receiver Joe Womack that popped off his pads and fell into the hands of Southern Miss linebacker Jamie Collins, who raced 97 yards for an interception returned for a touchdown.

On ECU's next possession, the Pirates punted after three unsuccessful downs. Southern Miss running back Tracy Lampley confounded matters on the next play, returning a punt 60 yards for a touchdown. The Eagles pulled ahead 14-7.

East Carolina's first quarter woes continued on its next possession. Forced to fourth and 11 from the 39, the Pirates elected to punt – but not without difficulty.

Pirates specialist Phil McNaughton's rugby style punt was blocked by Hunt and recovered by Emmanuel Johnson, who jogged into the end zone for a 15 yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead for the Eagles with 5:08 remaining in first quarter.

“We were beating ourselves,” ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said. “I have to get that corrected.”

Note – The Pirates were without senior receiver Lance Lewis, who injured his right foot earlier this week.

Robinson: 919-829-4781

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service