East Carolina failed to capitalize on the momentum of last week’s homecoming win and saw its fading bowl hopes take a major hit Saturday with a 45-24 loss at Tulsa. The Pirates (3-6, 1-4 American Athletic Conference) will need to win their final three games — against SMU, Navy and Temple — to earn a spot in the postseason in coach Scottie Montgomery’s first season. ECU had hoped to build on a strong defensive performance in which he held UConn without a touchdown last Saturday. But that didn’t happen, as the Hurricanes had two different backs rush for more than 100 yards while quarterback Dane Evans threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns. James Flanders finished with 181 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. D’Angelo Brewer added 180 yards and a score on 23 rushing attempts for Tulsa, which jumped out to an early 14-0 lead and broke the game open with a touchdown in the final minute before halftime. While the Golden Hurricanes (7-2, 4-1) lived up their billing as the second-highest scoring team in the American Athletic Conference, the Pirates failed to take advantage of of a Tulsa defense that ranked last in the league with an average of 31.9 points per game allowed. Quarterback Philip Nelson completed 9 of 13 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown, but was twice called for intentional grounding penalties that stalled ECU drives. The senior was eventually pulled in favor of backup Gardner Minshew, who went 29 of 49 for 336 yards and a late touchdown to Quay Johnson. The Pirates never got closer than 10 points in the second half and trailed 38-17 heading into the final 15 minutes. Their last chance at getting back into the game ended early in the fourth quarter, when after driving 70 yards on 11 plays, their drive stalled after running back James Summers was stopped for no gain at the Tulsa 1 and Minshew was sacked trying to throw into the end zone on fourth down. ECU’s only bright spot came in the person of wide receiver Zay Jones. The nation’s leading pass catcher at over 14 receptions per game, Jones caught 13 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown against the Golden Hurricanes. It marked the eighth time in nine games he has caught more than 10 passes. His eighth grab of the night gave him 122 for the season, moving him past former teammate Justin Hardy for the ECU and AAC single-season record. The Pirates return home next Saturday for a noon kickoff against SMU.
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