BULLS WRAPUP – EAST CAROLINA – OCTOBER 12
By Leo Haggerty
The Pirates sailed into Tampa Bay and put a whoopin’ on the Bulls to the tune of 44-24 at Raymond James Stadium. East Carolina improved to 1-2 (1-1 in the American Athletic Conference) while South Florida fell to 1-3 (0-2 in the AAC).
ECU took the opening kickoff and drove 67 yards in 11 plays that took 4:25 of clock time. That culminated in a 25 yard field goal from K Jake Verity to give the Pirates an early 3-0 at 10:35 of the opening stanza.
USF answered quickly with a score of their own. It took the Bulls 1:37 to go 65 yards in six plays with RB Johnny Ford going the last eight yards to paydirt. K Kenny Scribner converted the PAT and South Florida led 7-3 with 8:58 to go in the first period.
East Carolina wasted no time in retaking the lead. QB Holten Ahlers found RB Darius Pinnix with a 2-yard strike that ended a 12 play drive that went 59 yards in 5:08 of clock time. Verity was true with the kick and the Pirates retook the lead at 10-7 with 3:50 left in the opening period.
ECU added to their lead with just 16 ticks left in the first 15 minutes of play. After a USF punt, it only took the Pirates 1:16 and three plays to go 78 yards with Ahlers finding WR C.J. Johnson all alone behind the Bulls secondary for a 75 yard catch-and-run. Verity split the uprights again and the Pirates increased their advantage to 17-7.
On their next possession, South Florida fumbled and set East Carolina up with a short field opportunity and the Pirates didn’t disappoint. It took only one play and eight seconds for RB Rahjai Harris to shred the Green & Gold defense with a 48-yard TD scamper. Verity was good again and ECU was in complete command with a 24-7 lead at the 13:18 mark of the second quarter.
After the Bulls turned it over on downs deep in East Carolina territory, the South Florida defense got its first stop of the contest forcing the Pirates to punt. USF would answer with 4:29 left in the second period. Again, it was Ford doing the honors and this time is was from seven yards out. The run capped a 5 play drive that took 1:55 to go 80 yards and the Green & Gold cut the margin to 24-14.
USF shot themselves in the foot again right before halftime. P Trent Schneider fumbled the snap and was forced out of bounds deep in South Florida territory. ECU needed only one play as Harris scored his second touchdown of the tilt just five ticks later on a 10-yard burst. Verity converted again and East Carolina extended their advantage to 31-14 with 2:17 left in the opening half.
South Florida cut the margin to 31-17 with 32 seconds left before halftime. Sackett connected from 31 yards out to cap an 11 play drive that ate up 61 yards of real estate in 1:45.
The second half was all ECU. The Pirates would tack on another Johnson TD reception along with a couple more Verity field goals to take a commanding 44-17 lead with 3:14 left in the contest.
USF would find the end zone with 31 seconds left in regulation but it was too little and too late. That made the find arithmetic 44-24 with the Bulls on the wrong side of the dash.
The big story was the fact that ECU would score on their first four possessions and, for all intents and purposes, put the contest out of reach. I asked Head Coach Jeff Scott that very same question.
LH : ECU scores on its first four possessions. It seemed like your defense was a half-step slow. Did you see the same thing?
JS : Yeah, we just couldn’t stop them. That a real hard and tough feeling over on the sidelines. They just lined up and were doing, pretty much, whatever they wanted to do. We have to find out why that was. We have to give them credit for executing. We have to do a better job of stopping them. There were several third downs out there where we had several opportunities to stop them and their guys made the plays. We’re not going to make excuses. We had some guys that were out hurt. We were a little bit thin with Vincent Davis being taken out that early in the game. We have to play better. We have to play better in all three phases. That was definitely disappointing coming off the game last week against Cincinnati. I really felt like we were making some good progress on defense. We have to go back and regroup and find a way, as coaches, to put us in a better position then where we were tonight.
Also, Coach Scott decided to go for a 4th-and-5 on the ECU six yard line while trailing 24-7 midway through the second quarter. I asked him what his thought process was in that situation.
LH : You distained the field goal in the second quarter to try for the touchdown. Did you feel it was going to be a high-scoring affair and you were going to need points?
JS : Yeah, I want to be aggressive right now. We’re not playing the kind of ball, right now, where we can just sit there and kick field goals. It was a message to our team that we are going to be aggressive. I don’t care what the score is or what has happened. We are going to be aggressive. We went for it there. We went for the onside kick later. It’s one thing not to be executing as well as you want. I just believe in being aggressive and you have to do what you believe in. You got to take a chance. if you remember last week, one of our best plays was on fourth down. There, we executed it and it led to a touchdown so I’m never going to apologize for being aggressive. To that point we hadn’t stopped them on defense. We hadn’t executed that well. We hadn’t made them punt yet. I knew this game wasn’t going to be won with field goals. Without having spring ball, this is the time for us to get better. This first half of the year is an opportunity for us to work hard and get better and I think that we will.
USF now goes back to the drawing board as they prepare to head north again. This time it’s to take on the Temple Owls on Saturday at high noon. See you around the TV.