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Wave sinks Pirates in OT

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East Carolina's head coach Scottie Montgomery watches from the sideline during Saturday night's eventual overtime loss against Tulane.

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By NATHAN SUMMERS
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Stuck in a pattern of losing for most of the last two seasons, East Carolina football launched a never-say-die comeback against Tulane late Saturday night.

But again, the Pirates fell just a step short, literally in this case.

After ECU stormed back from 24-14 down in the fourth quarter to deadlock the game 24-24 and force overtime, Tulane rammed a touchdown home on its first extra possession. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, however, ECU freshman tailback Darius Pinnix could not get over the goal line to tie the game again and the visitors from Tulane escaped with a 31-24 triumph, snapping a four-game losing streak.

Trailing by a touchdown with no timeouts left and less than a minute to play, ECU quarterback Gardner Minshew converted a fourth-and-5 throw to Jimmy Williams keep the game afloat, then rifled a game-tying touchdown to Deondre Farrier in the back corner of the end zone for a 24-all tie.

Making his first start since early in the season, Minshew's TD toss forced overtime for the Pirates for the first time since a 36-33 loss at Tulane in 2013. This time around, the OT period was short-lived, with Green Wave quarterback Jonathan Banks running for a 16-yard score on Tulane's own fourth-and-1 play.

“I just take a lot of pain out of this one, that's about it,” second-year ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery said of his team's painful near miss. “There's no moral victories. We didn't come out here tonight to play close and go to overtime. We came out here to win.”

Tulane (4-6, 2-4 American Athletic Conference) had the ball late in the fourth quarter but gave the hosts just enough time to defy their season-long odds, at least temporarily. But Montgomery's straight run call for Pinnix died at the goal line and preserved Tulane's chances for a 6-6 season and a bowl berth.

“We wanted to give it to our big back and get behind our offensive line,” Montgomery said of the game's final play. “We felt like our offensive line did a good job to that point. … It didn't work. It had some misdirection to it with the ability to hand it off to the receiver or hand it off to the back, and I like what we did handing it off to the back. We've just got to be able to get half a yard.”

Minshew threw for 228 yards and a TD, sophomore back Hussein Howe ran for 108 yards and a score and the ECU defense caused three turnovers for the first time this season, but the Pirates (2-8, 1-5) were once again left searching for answers instead of celebrating.

“At the end of the day, it's an ‘L’ in the win-loss column,” Howe said. “I'm proud of my team. They fought well. That two-minute offense that we put together to make it go into overtime, we work on that every day. We didn't get it done so I feel like we've got to go an extra mile.”

Minshew staged a final comeback that was sealed by successive acrobatic catches by Williams and Farrier for the tie.

It temporarily nullified a career game by Tulane senior running back Dontrell Hilliard, who charged through the Pirates for much of the night for a career-best 189 yards and two scores that appeared would be enough on their own to snap the team's four-game losing streak in regulation.

Hilliard's second score of the night put his team up by 10 in the third, but ECU kicker Jake Verity knocked home a 29-yard field goal to make it 24-17 early in the fourth, ultimately setting the stage for Minshew's perfect 9-yard toss to Farrier with 36 ticks left in regulation.

“Losing sucks in any way, shape or form. It sucks,” Minshew said. “This one sucked.”

In OT, Tulane strolled into the end zone via Banks' big run. The Pirates got a key 13-yard gain by Howe on its lone possession and eventually drove to the 1, where Pinnix was unable to finish and extend the game further.

Korrin Wiggins led all defenders with 14 tackles, including two for lost yards. Linebacker Aaron Ramseur and defensive lineman Jalen Price made interceptions in the loss, and end Kiante Anderson recovered a fumble.

Tulane outgained the Pirates by a count of 446 yards to 389.

Tulane steered into its third lead of the game, 17-14, just before halftime on Merek Glover's 26-yard field goal, capping two evenly matched quarters.

The Pirates twice bounced back to deadlock the game at 7-7 and 14-14 behind Minshew and the fleet feet of Howe, who ended the half with 61 yards rushing on just four carries.

Howe's effort was trumped by Tulane senior tailback Hilliard, who not only raced for a 60-yard TD in the second quarter but also ended the half already with 129 ground yards on 16 carries.

The Green Wave opened the scoring with a lengthy opening drive that stretched 75 yards, 14 plays and eroded more than 7 minutes of the opening period.

A heavy dose of Hilliard put the visitors in the red zone, including a conversion on fourth-and-2, and Banks finished the drive with a 2-yard blast into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

ECU countered with a scoring drive of its own to tie the game, marching 12 plays and an equivalent 75 yards. Pinnix pounded the ball over the line from the 2 to tie the score.

Hilliard's long TD run was the 10th play of more than 60 yards allowed by the ECU defense this season, and mimicked another season-long trend in that it was the lone play of the drive. The senior rusher took a hand-off to his right, appeared to be stalled at the line of scrimmage but stepped away from two tackles into open space and rocketed to the end zone for a 14-7 Wave lead.

The score was tied again on Howe's masterful 25-yard run. He cut hard to his right behind the line of scrimmage, then trampled over a tackle attempt and stayed on his feet to get to the end zone for a 14-14 game.

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99. 

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