ECU aims to take out frustration on Tulane
East Carolina endured a very difficult loss last week.
Tulane knows the feeling.
The Pirates (1-4, 1-3 American Athletic Conference) host the Green Wave (3-4, 1-4) on Saturday in Greenville, N.C.
The AAC office announced that a replay reversal of a late Pirates fumble recovery against Tulsa on Oct. 30 was incorrect. The overturned call allowed the Golden Hurricane to retain the ball, and they drove for the winning score with 29 seconds to defeat visiting East Carolina 34-30.
“I have coached almost 200 ballgames as a head coach in my life and 100-plus at the college level, and I have never seen anything like that in my entire life,” Pirates coach Mike Houston said.
The Green Wave have seen a few disappointing endings this season, too.
They blew 24- and 17-point leads in losses to Navy and Houston, respectively, falling to the Midshipmen as time expired. They also lost to SMU in overtime.
“We’ve had some tough, heart-breaking losses,” Tulane coach Willie Fritz said.
None of the Green Wave’s losses was quite like the one East Carolina experienced last week.
“Our kids just kept on playing and kept on coming back,” Houston said. “They kept believing. They kept fighting.”
Houston added that his players were looking at him “a little sideways” in the aftermath of the defeat.
“I sit there and I preach to them: Every day, if you do right consistently day in and day out, good things are going to happen to you,” he said. “They did the things they had to do to win the ballgame.”
But they didn’t win.
The disappointing finish overshadowed a big game by the Pirates’ offense.
Quarterback Holton Ahlers returned from a one-game absence due to COVID-19 protocols and passed for 330 yards, completing 38 of 50 passes and throwing three touchdown passes and one interception.
Freshman Jahjai Harris had his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game, finishing with 118 yards on 21 carries.
Ahlers and Harris combined on a 4-yard touchdown pass that put the Pirates on top with 4:24 left. That score almost certainly would have served as the game-winner if not for the improperly overturned call.
Tulane had no worries about its ending last week, breaking a three-game losing streak with an easy 38-3 home victory against Temple.
“We really needed that,” said linebacker Nick Anderson, who had career highs of 14 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss against the Owls. “It was a great confidence boost. It’s bringing back our momentum, our dedication and our identity.”
The Green Wave offense also seems to be finding its identity.
Freshman quarterback Michael Pratt has started the past four games, and he has thrown nine touchdown passes while rushing for five touchdowns.
Duece Watts caught two touchdown passes from Pratt against Temple, and he is averaging 20.4 yards per catch for the season, second-best in the AAC. Stephon Huderson is averaging 7.1 yards per carry.
The Tulane defense had allowed 137 points and 1,746 yards during its three-game skid, but it shut down the Temple offense. The Owls, playing without injured starting quarterback Anthony Russo, managed just 222 total yards.
“It was very refreshing,” Fritz said. “It’s hard to hold anyone to three points, especially in college football.”
–Field Level Media