Tulane’s 24-9 victory against ECU came down to points off turnovers. Early in the game, both teams were humming on offense as the Green Wave and Pirates traded scores on four consecutive drives. Tulane had the early advantage 14-9 but the game grinded to a halt for seven drives. It looked like the Pirates were going to take the lead as they reached the red zone. However, the Green Wave’s defense seized momentum with an interception in the end zone that woke up the crowd at Yulman Stadium.
On the following drive, QB Michael Pratt hit his receiver Deuce Watts for a 35-yard pitch and catch. Pratt must have seen something he liked from the Pirate’s personnel as he hustled his team to the line. Watts put on an encore performance against the same defender as he dragged him across the goal line for a 44-yard TD.
After the teams traded punts with Tulane up 21-9, Willie Fritz’s defense came up big again. As soon as ECU started to look like they had something going, Tulane picked off another Holton Ahlers pass. Now with a short field and a two-score lead in the fourth quarter, the offense played it conservative and found a way to eat four minutes of clock on just seven plays. New kicker Valentino Ambrosio came on for the 42-yard attempt and drilled it. Previously, Kriston Esnard was handling kicking duties for the Green Wave before missing his past three field goal attempts.
Ahlers looked uncharacteristically average after his career-best performance last week where he threw for six touchdowns against South Florida. Pratt didn’t put on a performance that jumped off the stat sheet either. However, he avoided turning the ball over and had flawless game management to keep the clock ticking in the second half. Ultimately, the difference between the signal callers were the defenses.
Tulane’s defense continued to smother East Carolina as they forced turnovers on downs on the Pirates’ two remaining drives to maintain their second half shutout. Tulane will be rewarded by being ranked within the top 10 for scoring defense when all games finish this weekend. Meanwhile, ECU’s defense is trending in the wrong direction. The Pirates gave up over 20 points to two of the AAC’s worst offenses in USF and Navy. This week, they failed to get their unit off the field against Tulane when they knew the Green Wave were looking to burn as much clock as possible.
Tulane will now hope to ride the momentum into Tampa as they seek to win three conference games in a row for the first time since 2018. Notably, that was the last time Tulane won a share of the AAC. If Tulane didn’t have a loss to their former offensive coordinator and Southern Miss, they would arguably be a ranked team.
Meanwhile, ECU have a lot to fix prior to their pivotal matchup against Memphis. The Pirates desperately need to find a consistent offensive option outside of Ahlers. Furthermore, their defense needs to find answers in a hurry before they face stellar signal caller Seth Henigan.