GREENVILLE — Faced with a fourth-and-one situation in overtime, Tulane gained 16 yards and scored a touchdown. Faced with a similar fourth down call moments later, at the one-yard line, East Carolina’s Darius Pinnix was stopped short of the end zone.
That final play provided a dramatic ending to a 31-24 Green Wave victory Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and by far the most heartbreaking of the Pirates’ eight losses this season.
“We wanted to give it to our big back and get behind our offensive line,” ECU coach Scottie Montgomery said. “We felt like our offensive line had done a great job to that point running the ball inside zone, outside zone. We’d stretched them a few times.
“The play before we stretched them, tried to get to the perimeter, couldn’t quite get it in. We wanted to come back and lean on our offensive line a little bit. It didn’t work. We’ve just got to be able to go get a half a yard.”
The disappointing end took the luster off a late comeback that saw the Pirates (2-8, 1-5 AAC) rally from a 10-point second half deficit to force the extra possessions.
Down 24-14 with just over 13 minutes remaining, defensive lineman Kiante Anderson recovered a fumble by Tulane quarterback Jonathan Banks to set up a 29-yard field goal by Jake Verity. After ECU failed to take advantage of an interception by freshman linebacker Aaron Ramseur, the defense held again and quarterback Gardner Minshew led an 89-yard, 14-play drive that led to the tying touchdown.
Minshew hit Deondre Farrier with a 9-yard scoring pass with 36 seconds remaining to complete the rally. The junior, who has supplanted Thomas Sirk as ECU’s starter, completed completed 25 of 52 passes for 228 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
“I was glad to see our guys in the two-minute drill come down and execute, get to overtime,” Montgomery said. “But to come up a half yard short really makes it hard.”
The Pirates could have given themselves a better shot at winning had they been able to stop Tulane on its fourth down play from the 16. Instead, Banks was able to break free for the go-ahead touchdown.
On ECU’s possession, three Hussein Howe runs and a defensive holding call on the Green Wave put the ball at the 4-yard line. A two-yard Howe run, an incomplete pass in the end zone and a one-yard run by Devon Anderson that was originally ruled a fumble and touchback left the Pirates a yard short of the goal.
And that’s where the game ended.
“It’s still an L in the win-lose column,” said Howe, who finished with a career-high 108 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, to go along with five catches for 36 yards. “They all hurt.”