WASHINGTON — East Carolina's football season came to a bitter, disjointed end at Wednesday's Military Bowl.
The Maryland Terrapins battered the No. 7 pass offense in the nation with blitzes and tuned up the Pirates' defense with an explosive run attack during a 51-20 UM blowout inside Washington's RFK Stadium.
ECU quarterback Dominique Davis and the high-speed Pirate offense never got out of the starting block despite a solid first half from its defensive counterpart.
With the Pirates (6-7) unable to find the end zone, Maryland's running backs eventually began to stomp their way toward a 9-4 finish in the final game for recently-fired head coach Ralph Friedgen.
“There's no beating around the bush. They whooped us from the first play until the end,” said Davis, who was intercepted twice and fell well short of his usual outing with 268 pass yards and just one touchdown.
After the Pirates' sluggish start saw them trailing 16-3 at the half, Maryland put its offense in high gear in the second, storming the Pirates for five more touchdowns.
That included a remarkable two-touchown salvo by running back Da'Rel Scott late in the third quarter and early in the fourth. Scott broke loose for a 61-yard score to end the third, then began the fourth with a 91-yard sprint to the end zone that sealed the easy victory for the Terps.
Scott's even 200 rush yards were part of Maryland's 297-yard ground onslaught against a Pirate defense that spent much of the season trying and failing to stop opposing ball-carriers.
“The first half I thought our defense played well, but we struggled offensively, and that's one of the things that was unexpected,” said first-year ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill, whose Pirates lost their fourth bowl game in the last five years. “We practiced well, prepared well. But Maryland did a good job defensively. We had great prep, had a great week here in D.C., but we just fell short.”
ECU kicker Michael Barbour accounted for the lone Pirate score in the first half with a 37-yard second quarter field goal that briefly made the game interesting at 9-3.
But by the time ECU scored again on Davis' lone touchdown pass, a 20-yard strike to dazzling junior receiver Lance Lewis, it was the third quarter and it merely cut the Pirates' deficit to 23-10.
Lewis surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving plateau with his team-best 11 receptions for 137 yards, joining senior Dwayne Harris in that regard and becoming one half of the only 1,000-yard recieving tandem in ECU single-season history.
But Harris, one of 18 seniors to play in their final game for ECU on Wednesday, had a forgettable final game that included two first half fumbles and a handful of dropped passes.
After Davis was injured in the fourth quarter, sophomore backup Brad Wornick took over and tossed a late TD pass to redshirt freshman Justin Jones, but the damage had long since been done by the Terps, who amassed 478 yards of offense to ECU's 343.
“In the first half, we came out and stuffed the run,” senior ECU linebacker and season-long tackles leader Dustin Lineback said. “In the second half, they had a couple of big plays right up the middle. They have some great backs, but I thought we started off well and we just didn't finish.”
Short-yardage specialist D.J. Adams finished four Maryland drives with touchdowns, while freshman UM passer Danny O'Brien cashed in a modest 181 yards in a game that didn't require him to do much more than hand the ball to his rushers.
Prior to the Terrapins' monster second half, the Pirate defense had given the offense plenty of opportunities to make it a game.
After Emanuel Davis intercepted O'Brien on the opening play of the game, the freshman passer burned the ECU defense for a touchdown on Maryland's second drive. He heaved a high ball down the right sideline over the head of senior corner Travis Simmons and into the hands of a streaking Kevin Dorsey for a 45-yard touchdown, the lone Maryland pass of significance in the entire affair.
But Pirate defensive tackle Antonio Allison got a hand on the extra point attempt to keep the game close at 6-0. After that, the ECU defense stood its ground on a pair of deep Maryland drives from which the Terps extracted just three total points, and ECU also forced a pair of first half punts.
But on the other side, Davis threw a first quarter pick and Harris lost a fumble on the following possession.
A bad exchange between Davis and Harris on a jet sweep play later in the half was also pounced on by the Terrapin defense, further complicating matters for the Pirates.
Adams' first TD, with 2:57 left in the second quarter, made it 16-3, and he scored again early in the third quarter to make it 23-3 after ECU's opening drive ended with Davis' second pick.
According to McNeill, the month-long layoff between games might have caused problems in an offense predicated upon timing. That, combined with a fierce pass rush from Maryland undoubtedly affected the output of the ECU offense.
“The time off may have hurt us just a little but in timing,” McNeill said. “But Maryland did a good job so you can't anything away (from the Terrapin defense). We could have executed better.”
Despite having played in five straight bowl games, the Pirates have not won one since upending Boise State at the 2007 Hawaii Bowl.
Contact Nathan Summers at firstname.lastname@example.org or (252)329-9595.