Overcoming a 23-7 deficit early in the second quarter, the East Carolina Pirates scored the next 42 points in route to a 49-23 win over SMU.
It was again the James Summers show as the junior quarterback rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns after coming in early in the second quarter. Blake Kemp made the start but was removed after his second interception of the game. It was part of the game plan to use Summers at some point, but a 23-7 deficit and two turnovers from Kemp sped the process.
The game started in odd fashion as SMU scored on their second offensive play of the game, a pass that was deflected at the line into the arms of Jeremiah Gaines for a 60-yard touchdown. The conversion was no good, giving SMU a 6-0 lead.
East Carolina responded with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Kemp to Davon Grayson to take a short-lived 7-6 lead. After an SMU punt, the Pirates offense fell apart with two interceptions, a punt and a turnover on downs that swung the lead to 23-7 in favor of SMU and bringing Summers into the game.
Summers immediately led the Pirates on an 8-play, 75-yard drive capped by his 27-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 23-14. The ECU defense followed with a three-and-out, followed by a 5-play, 56-yard touchdown drive by the Pirates. This time Chris Hairston finished it with a 34-yard run to cut the SMU lead to 23-21 heading into halftime.
Needing only :51 seconds, ECU was in the lead with Trevon Brown catching a 47-yard touchdown pass to give the Pirates a 28-23 lead. Anthony Scott added a one-yard touchdown plunge that extended the ECU lead to 35-23 at the end of three quarters.
The Pirates struck twice more in the fourth quarter, with an 8-yard touchdown run by Summers and a 16-yard touchdown catch by Jimmy Williams to give the Pirates a 49-23 win.
With a 3-2 overall record and a trip to BYU next on the schedule, let’s take a look at what the Pirates did, good and bad, in this game.
Second Half Defense: The Pirates gave up big plays and 23 points to SMU early in the game, but settled down and dominated the Mustangs for the rest of the game. In the second half, the defense held SMU to 61 total yards, while compiling more sacks than they had in the previous four games combined. This is the type of defense we expect from this experienced and talented defense. The defensive dominance actually started in the second quarter, but ECU was completely dominant on defense in the second half.
Summers Dazzles Again: Trailing 23-7 and coming in off of the bench for the second straight game, Summers has nothing short of masterful with his ability to invigorate the entire ECU offense. The Pirates scored a touchdown on his first two drives of the game and six of his first nine drives. A 23-7 deficit was turned into a 49-23 win. ECU is outscoring opponents 63-14 in the last two games while Summers is the quarterback.
Run Game Gets On Track: Summers and company saw the running games kick into life for the Pirates with 306 yards on 54 carries versus SMU. Summers had 85 on his own, but running backs Chris Hairston (91), Anthony Scott (69), and Shawn Furlow (47) all ran for 5.0+ yards in the game. Today was the first time in quite a while that rushing attempts doubled passing attempts.
Gregory’s Punting: Much of the credit for ECU’s success in the last two weeks has gone to Summers, but the unsung hero of ECU is punter Worth Gregory. The junior punter dropped all four of his punts inside the SMU 12-yard line. That is one week after Gregory dropped three punts inside the six-yard line versus Virginia Tech.
Slow Start: The Pirates looked like the inferior team for the first 20 minutes of game time with SMU leading 23-7. This is the third straight slow/poor start for ECU in the last three weeks. The Pirates overcame a slow start last week versus Virginia Tech and SMU, but cannot afford for this trend to continue.
Turnovers: This was what made the ECU coaching staff go with Summers seemingly earlier than they had planned. Blake Kemp’s two interceptions resulted in SMU scoring 10 points on their following drives. Once turnovers were eliminated, ECU pulled away for a blowout win.
Giving Up Big Plays: Outside of a couple of big plays, one coming from a bit of luck, the ECU defense played well. It is a bit picky to put this in the bad category since one was a deflection that fell into a receiver’s hands for a long touchdown. The Pirates also had some trouble early with containing Davis’ quarterback scrambles, leading to semi-big plays.
Player Of The Game: James Summers. As much as I wanted to give it to Gregory for another excellent punting performance, Summers changed the game completely when he was inserted in the game. 153 yards in the air, 85 on the ground, and responsible for four touchdowns, Summers was the man on Saturday.