• 45°

College Football: East Carolina 27, Tulsa 24

By Jeff Latzke
Associated Press
TULSA, Okla. ó Patrick Pinkney had one last chance to hold up the family tradition and bring a conference championship back to East Carolina.
So he won this one for Dad.
Pinkney played mistake-free football, Ben Hartman kicked a 36-yard field goal with 1:43 remaining and East Carolina took advantage of seven turnovers to beat Tulsa 27-24 Saturday in the Conference USA championship game for its first league title in 32 years.
“He always joked about it, being the last team to win the conference championship,” said Pinkney, whose father, Reggie, was a star defensive back on the Pirates’ 1976 Southern Conference title team.
“I told him at the beginning of the year, ‘We’ll go get it this year.’ ”
While the Pirates (9-4) used the league’s best defense to force David Johnson, the nation’s top-rated passer, into a career-high five interceptions, Pinkney was solid throughout.
The senior threw for only 122 yards and one touchdown, but protected the ball all game long and routinely threw it away when there was nothing there. That put East Carolina in position for a final 12-play, 63-yard drive that chewed up 7 minutes and set up Hartman for the game-winner.
“We finished the game,” Pinkney said. “We got that drive, Ben hit that kick and that sealed it for us.”
The conference crown earned the Pirates a berth in the Liberty Bowl, which was offered to them on the field during the trophy presentation. Tulsa (10-3) will try to get its top-ranked offense back on track in time for its bowl game, most likely a second straight appearance in the GMAC Bowl ó although coach Todd Graham said that wasn’t a done deal yet.
The normally efficient Johnson had thrown only 13 interceptions in 12 games this season, but was off-target from the start. He threw an interception on the first play of the game as the Golden Hurricane came out going for the long ball. It was a sign of things to come.
Pinkney responded by driving the Pirates 83 yards and throwing a 13-yard touchdown pass to fullback Kevin Gidrey off of play action.
The lead grew to 14-0 when Travis Simmons picked off another of Johnson’s passes and returned 72 yards it down the left sideline for a score. It was the first time all season that Johnson threw interceptions on consecutive drives.
He also fumbled on Tulsa’s opening drive of the second half, and Norman Whitley bolted 69 yards up the middle for a touchdown that put East Carolina up 24-17 ó with all of its points coming off of Golden Hurricane turnovers.
Van Eskridge sealed the win with 63 seconds left when he picked off a pass intended for top receiver Brennan Marion, who had crumpled to the turf after apparently injuring his right knee. It was Eskridge’s second interception of the game.
“They got a lot of pressure on the quarterback, and we didn’t have a very good answer for the things that they were doing,” Graham said. “They were putting stress on us, and we were turning the football over.”
Tulsa, which leads the nation with a 579-yard average, was held to season-low 399 yards. Johnson finished with 195 yards on 23-for-42 passing. It was only the third time this season he was held below 200 yards passing. His only touchdown pass was an 8-yarder to Jake Collums that tied the game at 24 with 8:57 left, before ECU’s final march
“It’s definitely not all on Dave. We just fell short as a team, as an offense,” said running back Tarrion Adams, who had a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs in a burst of 17 straight first-half points for Tulsa.
The Pirates won for the sixth time in seven games after a three-game losing streak wiped away the early BCS banter that followed their back-to-back upsets of Top 25 teams Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
“I thought this football team has had more heart, they have faced more adversity and they have hung together through some very difficult times when there’s not a lot of people that have believed in them,” coach Skip Holtz said. “There’s not a lot of people that gave them a chance in this football game.”
At the end of the day, though, Pinkney was able to follow in the footsteps of his father. Holtz, too, followed the winning ways of his pop, former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz.
“It’s big for our program. That’s a long time for a conference championship,” Pinkney said, before Holtz interjected.
“Are you trying to say your dad is old?” the coach asked.
And once again, the quarterback had the perfect answer: “He’s got gray hair.”

Comments

Comments closed.

Local

City approves DOT agreement, Salisbury Station project could begin next year

Local

County plans to use vulture effigy, enforce violations to remedy animal carcass feeding problem

Education

Two weeks after ending enhanced protocols, Catawba has no COVID-19 cases

News

Council to hear revised version of Downtown Main Street Plan

News

Political Notebook: Majority of likely voters, local legislators support school reopening bill

Coronavirus

COVID-19 vaccinations in Rowan top positives since start of pandemic

Crime

Man faces drug charges after breaking and entering call

Lifestyle

Waterworks schedules 2021 Summer ARTventures

Crime

Blotter: Man faces drug charges after being found passed out in vehicle

Ask Us

Ask Us: What programs exist for litter cleanup?

Business

County begins accepting restaurant grant applications

Crime

Blotter: Salisbury man charged with nine more felony sex offenses

Nation/World

Biden team readies wider economic package after virus relief

Nation/World

Spacewalking astronauts prep station for new solar wings

Nation/World

Cuomo sorry for remarks aide ‘misinterpreted’ as harassment

Nation/World

Trump calls for GOP unity, repeats lies about election loss

Education

Rowan County administers 700 vaccines, with majority going to local educators

Crime

Shoplifting at Walmart presents challenge for Salisbury police

Local

Commissioners will hear details about changes to solar energy policies

Business

After overcoming obstacles, local barber Daniel King earns registered status

Lifestyle

39th annual K12 student exhibitions go virtual

Business

Biz Roundup: Chamber of Commerce to host ‘Salute to Agri-Business’ at March Power in Partnership

Local

Local legislators back bills ranging from new restrictions on sex offenders to Holocaust education

News

After surviving COVID-19 scare, Lois Willard set to celebrate 100th birthday