10/03/05 — Pirates still can't beat Southern Miss

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Pirates still can't beat Southern Miss

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 3, 2005 2:13 PM

The drought continues.

Southern Miss forced five turnovers and rolled past East Carolina 33-7 on a cool Saturday evening at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The Golden Eagles captured their fifth consecutive victory in the series and ninth overall in their last 10 meetings.

The Pirates haven't beaten USM at home since 1994.

"There were a lot of positives early," said first-year ECU coach Skip Holtz. "The way the offensive line played, the way the running game was working, but if you don't hold onto the ball, it doesn't matter."

ECU finished minus-four in the turnover ratio category and watched the Golden Eagles score twice off first-half miscues. The Pirates entered the game ranked 24th nationally in turnovers lost (four), but ninth overall in turnover margin (plus 1.7).

Southern Miss committed one turnover.

The Pirates' offensive blunders kept the defense on the field for a significant amount of time. A fumble recovery stopped one drive, but ECU eventually yield 17 second-quarter points, including 10 in 4 1/2-minute span.

"The defense steps up (early) and we hold them to three points," said Holtz, referring to the Pirates' turnover on their first possession. "Then we would get the ball and go down the field, drive about 60 or 70 yards and then turn it over.

"They would go down and answer. Then we would get the ball again, we would go down the field and turn it over again. We shot ourselves in the foot early."

ECU had lost just four turnovers combined in its first three games before Saturday. The Pirates committed five turnovers in a 59-7 loss nearly 12 months ago at Louisville.


SCORING STREAK: Chris Johnson collected ECU's lone touchdown -- a 1-yard run late in the second quarter. The tally enabled the Pirates to extend their active streak of 93 games without a shutout since a 56-0 loss at Syracuse on Oct. 4, 1997.

It is the second-longest streak in school history.

The record is 110 consecutive games set from 1971-81.


100-YARD EFFORTS: East Carolina's backs combined for 184 yards, the team's third 100-yard effort of the season in four outings. The Pirates recorded four 100-yard games a year ago, including a season-high 236 against Wake Forest.

Chris Johnson finished with a team-high 76 yards on 18 carries and boosted his season total to 349. However, Johnson's team-leading output is just one-third of the 995 yards allowed by the Pirate defense in four games.


ALMOND JOY: Southern Miss quarterback Dustin Almond threw a controversial 74-yard touchdown pass to Antwon Currington early in the third quarter. Currington appeared to step out of bounds between the 20- and 15-yard lines on his way to the end zone.

After reviewing the play, the head official said that no conclusive evidence warranted taking USM's touchdown off the board.

Currington's TD strike is the longest allowed by the Pirates this season and the second-longest since Army's Jacob Murphy threw a 78-yard bomb in Greenville last October.

Almond threw for 334 yards, the most since Wake Forest's Cory Randolph chiseled the Pirate secondary for 344 yards in Greenville last September.


PINKNEY BLACK AND BLUE: West Virginia's defense relentlessly pounded Pirate quarterback James Pinkney on every play last Saturday in Morgantown.

Holtz and his coaching staff decided to put pressure on the offensive line to open holes for Chris Johnson and Jermarcus Veal. For the most part, the line did a solid job.

"We have been relying an awful lot on James' arm," admitted Holtz. "We know we still have that aspect of our offense if we need it, but we tried to take a little off of him tonight and get something going in the running game."

Pinkney finished with 202 yards on 20-of-28 attempts.


A CUSA NOTE: East Carolina is 28-29 all-time against Conference USA opposition. The Pirates, who have finished 10th overall each of the past two seasons, are 14-15 at home.

"This is going to be a tough conference, and it's going to be a tough seven weeks," said Holtz.

ECU welcomes Rice next Saturday for a 6 p.m. kickoff.