Unable to generate enough offense yet again, the East Carolina Pirates saw their bowl hopes fall to the wayside in falling 19-16 to the Cincinnati Bearcats.
The Pirates, playing for their bowl lives in this game, got started quickly versus the Bearcats defense with a 58-yard opening drive that got as close as the Cincinnati two-yard line. Getting stuffed on three straight plays, the Pirates brought on kicker Davis Plowman for a 20-yard field goal. His kick was good, giving ECU a 3-0 early lead.
After getting a quicky three and out from the defense, Blake Kemp led the Pirates 94 yards in 11 plays and a score. The scoring play was a 10-yard pass from Kemp to Davon Grayson in the end zone. The PAT was good, giving ECU a 10-0 lead and early momentum.
ECU was unable to seize the momentum as both teams traded punts before the Cincinnati offense finally got rolling on a drive starting on their own 10-yard line. Gunner Kiel was 7-9 for 59 yards on the drive, connecting with leading receiver Shaq Washington for an eight-yard touchdown pass to pull within 10-6. The PAT attempt by Andrew Gantz was no good, leaving the score at 10-6 in favor of East Carolina.
The Bearcats had one last chance to score in moving 71 yards to the ECU 27-yard line late in the first half. Kiel went for it all, throwing to the end zone, but DaShawn Benton ripped the ball away for a touchdown saving interception.
At the half, ECU led 10-6.
Cincinnati quickly found success in the third quarter with the run game. Carries by Hosey Williams, Mike Boone, and Tion Green found room versus the ECU defense into the redzone. Boone capped off the scoring drive five plays later with a one-yard touchdown run that gave Cincinnati their first lead of the game at 13-10.
The Bearcats extended their lead to 16-10 minutes later with Gantz connecting on a 50-yard kick.
Needing to respond with their bowl hopes on the line and a quarter left to play, ECU again did just enough to get back in the game. The Pirates sailed downfield the the Cincinnati two-yard line, facing a fourth and goal with just over 10 minutes left in the game.
Rather than take the field goal attempt, the Pirates went with James Summers who found Bryce Williams for a touchdown pass to pull ECU even at 16, PAT pending. Before the PAT attempt, the Pirates were penalized 15 yards for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, moving the kick back to the Cincinnati 17-yard line.
That 15 yards was everything as Plowman missed the attempt, leaving the game tied at 16 with 10:36 left in the game.
Cincinnati quickly moved downfield on 12 plays and attempted a 44-yard field goal with 4:27 left in the game. The kick went wide right, givng the Pirates hope for one big offensive drive to win the game. Instead, ECU went three and out, giving the ball to the Bearcats on the Cincinnati 19-yard line.
Helped in part by a 15-yard personal foul penalty by the Pirates, Kiel moved the Bearcats to the East Carolina 25-yard line with four seconds left on the clock. Gantz, having already missed a PAT and a 44-yard kick earlier, came on and drilled the 42-yard game winning field goal as time expired to give Cincinnati a 19-16 win over East Carolina.
This win ends the regular season for both teams. Cincinnati ends with a 7-5 record and postseason berth secured. East Carolina falls to 5-7 with their season coming to a disappointing close.