Jonathan Banks' 16-yard touchdown run around left end lifted Tulane to a 31-24 overtime victory over ECU Saturday night in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
It was one of Banks' two touchdowns on the day to go along with 110 yards of passing and 98 yards of rushing for Tulane(4-6/2-4 AAC). Dontrell Hilliard added 191 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns for the Green Wave in a game where the Pirates gave Tulane all they could handle right up to the end.
For the Green Wave it was their first ever victory in Greenville in nine tries.
ECU(2-8/1-5 AAC) worked their way to the one-yard line in overtime but Tulane defensive line got penetration into the Pirate backfield and running back Darius Pinnix's 4th down run came up just short to end the contest. It proved to be another disappointing ending to what otherwise was a pretty well played game by the Pirates.
“We had to work really hard to get it. We shot ourselves in the foot a few times. It was disappointing that we had a fumble down there and an interception. The defense rose to the occasion but didn’t play quite as well at the end," Tulane head coach Willie Fritz said, "They came up with that huge stop and I am so proud of our guys. It was such a tough loss last week and we had to sit there and swallow that the whole week so I'm glad we got out of here with a win.”
“We set up a misdirection where we had the ability to hand it off to the receiver or hand it off to the back,” said ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery, “I like what we did by handing it off to the back. We’ve just got to be able to go and get a half a yard.”
“They got penetration up front and did a good job, coming up a foot short. It was a play short. There were different opportunities in the game to make plays and we didn’t. We’ll go back and look at the film and this one is going to hurt because we were so close,” said ECU quarterback Gardner Minshew, “Losing sucks in any way shape or form. This one sucks. There were a handful of plays that if we had made them would have changed the game and fourth down (in overtime) was definitely one of them.”
The Pirate defense provided several key stops in the second half along with two interceptions and a fumble recovery and Minshew talked about the effort on that side of the ball Saturday night.
“They played so hard in that second half. They really battled when we were struggling. We really wanted to pick them up and we just fell a little bit short,” Minshew said, “We’ve got to make plays. I was off a little bit and the receivers weren’t making plays. Between the two of us, we’ve got to do better and we will do better.”
Montgomery talked the play of his improving ECU defense that kept the Pirates within reach throughout the game.
“We were able to get some major turnovers in the second half and our defense has been needing to get that feel. Offensively, I didn’t feel like we played particularly well throughout the game. That’s why I went for it down there (in the fourth quarter). I didn’t know how close we would get down there (again), instead of kicking a field goal earlier in the quarter.”
“It just didn’t feel like we were in any kind of rhythm with either quarterback and I think it really came down to we didn’t make many plays tonight on the perimeter,” said Montgomery, “We used to go up and make some of those plays with our receivers. We didn’t make many of those this week, so I didn’t really feel good about kicking it there because I didn’t know how hard it was going to be for us to get back down there and actually get in the game, but I was glad to see our guys in the two-minute drill come down and execute and get into overtime. But to come up a half yard short really makes it hard.”
ECU free safety Korrin Wiggins could see definite improvement from the Pirate defense while coming up short in overtime was little consolation.
“It gives us confidence. Every play, we just took it one play at a time. It will give us confidence moving forward. Every loss stings. You never like to lose at all. It’s tough but we’ll bounce back,” said Wiggins who talked about the play in overtime where Tulane scored what proved to be the game winning touchdown, “We were confident. We wanted to go out there, execute and win. We just didn't execute."
Tulane got on the scoreboard on a 2-yard Banks touchdown midway into the first quarter before Pinnix scored on a 2-yard run of his own to tie the game with 3:09 to go in the opening quarter.
Hilliard’s 60-yard run gave the Green Wave a seven point 14-7 lead with 8:49 to play in the first quarter before ECU matched it with a 25-yard Hussein Howe touchdown scamper that tied the game again with 6:13 to play in the half.
Tulane jumped out to a ten-point 24-14 lead on a 26-yard Glover field goal just before intermission and Hilliard’s second touchdown of the game with less than a minute to go in the third quarter.
But a 29-yard Jake Verity field goal and a nine-yard Deondre Farrier circus catch in the left corner of the end zone tied the game with just 36 seconds left in regulation.
Gardner Minshew passed for 228 yards on 25 of 52 passing and a touchdown for ECU. Seven of those completions went to Trevion Brown who accounted for 72 yards to lead all Pirate receivers while Darnell Mooney made six catches for Tulane for 67 yards to lead all Green Wave receivers.
“Gardner’s play was good at times. I thought he was excellent in the two-minute drill. There were a couple of lulls in there where we ran some wrong routes and he looked like he was squeamish and he was waiting on them and he took a couple of sacks. I wanted to settle him down after one of the series because there were two or three throws that he had made that I thought were pretty good little throws but guys weren’t making plays for him and then he rotated out of the pocket a couple of times. I wanted to settle him down. I didn’t think he played bad. I’d have to look at the tape to see everything that he did.”
The fact that ECU kept the game close and had every opportunity to win it at the end signified improvement for a Pirate team that has experienced more than their fair share of disappointment this season.
“It takes some of the pain out of this one. That’s about it. We’re getting better but there are no moral victories. We didn’t come out here tonight to play close and go into overtime,” Montgomery told PirateIllustrated.com, “We came out here to win and we prepare to win. Unfortunately tonight we did not.”
All told, Tulane ran for 325 yards on 52 carries to 161 for ECU and the Green Wave accounted for 446 yards of total offense while holding ECU to just 389 total yards in the contest.