What a thriller in Greenville, NC. A game that saw no chance of East Carolina having any chance of winning turned into an old-fashion shootout where the team who had the ball last won. Cincinnati’s Sam Crosa made a GW 37 yard field goal as time expired to prevail 46-43. The most noteworthy moment was Coach Luke Fickell’s deep breath as a sign of relief after the game had ended.
Cincinnati used a fourth quarter push to come back and win the game by outscoring the Pirates 18-3. The crucial play of the game was when the defense needed to rise for the occasion they showed up. Down five with the Pirates driving, freshman cornerback Ahmad Gardner picked off quarterback Holton Ahlers and ran it back 62 yards for the score with 4:38 remaining and take the lead 43-40. ECU then came back to tie the game at 43 a piece with a field goal by Jake Verity.
QB Desmond Ridder led the Bearcats on a two-minute drill of their own leading to the Crosa game-winner. Ridder threw for 161 yards and a touchdown as well as rushed for 146 more keeping the Bearcats undefeated in the American Conference.
The game started out with immediate fireworks as both teams combined for five consecutive drives of touchdowns in the first quarter. East Carolina took over in the second quarter scoring 17 unanswered to lead 31-21 at the break. However, the Bearcats found life late to come in and avoid a horrible upset against the Pirates.
Ahlers finished with a school-record 535 yards passing and a career high of four touchdowns as well as rushing for the score. Unfortunately, there will be one throw that will be haunting him this week. The Pirates looking to beat a top 25 opponent for the first time since 2014 had a 12 point lead with under 9 minutes remaining before it slipped out of their grasp.
The Bearcats now stretched there win streak to five games with this win by keep their league title as well as Cotton Bowl hopes alive. People may say that teams come out flat but if you want any chance of glory at the end of the year, you just need to find a way to win by one point and that’s what the Bearcats did today by finding a way to win.
This game will sting for the Pirates as it looked like they had coach Mike Houston’s cornerstone victory in their hands. ECU played the game almost perfectly by winning the turnover battle, controlling time of possession and converting almost all of their red zone appearances into touchdowns. One could check off every box for the Pirates in this one as a success offensively and yet the Bearcats found a way.
However, this game will sting but it once again showed that the Pirates may be young but they’re definitely capable to compete with the big boys in the American Conference.
Cincinnati will be hosting UConn on Saturday.
As for the Pirates, ECU will be traveling to SMU to face the high-flying offense of the Mustangs.