09/25/11 — ECU overcomes seven turnovers to top UAB

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ECU overcomes seven turnovers to top UAB

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 25, 2011 1:52 AM

GREENVILLE -- East Carolina nearly ambushed itself, but somehow it avoided walking the plank Saturday afternoon.

The Pirates survived a school-record seven-turnover outing and slipped past Conference USA rival UAB, 28-23, at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Quarterback Dominique Davis threw for 361 yards and tossed three touchdown passes for East Carolina, which claimed its 11th straight home win against a CUSA East division opponent.

"Wins are hard to come by at this level, so we'll take it," said ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill. "Was it pretty? No. We knew we would face a team that would come out hungry, a team that would compete."

The Blazers coaxed the Pirates into four first-half turnovers and trailed 14-10 at intermission.

Jamie Bender's 35-yard interception return gave UAB a 17-14 lead early in the third quarter. Davis navigated two touchdown drives over the next eight minutes to put ECU in command, 28-17.

The Pirates tried to extend their lead early in the final period.

On second-and-goal from the UAB 6, Michael Dobson charged up the middle and fumbled at the goal line. Greg Irvin recovered the ball and the Blazers responded with a six-play drive that ended on Pat Shed's 7-yard touchdown scamper.

The Blazers' two-point conversion attempt failed.

East Carolina took the ensuing kickoff and drove inside UAB's red zone for a fifth time. Marqui Coleman picked off Davis' second-down pass at the 9-yard line, and the Blazers went to work one last time.

UAB backup quarterback Jon Perry orchestrated a time-consuming, 17-play drive that stalled at the ECU 18-yard line. His fourth-down pass to Pat Shed fell incomplete in the end zone, and the Pirates ran out the clock to preserve their fifth straight win over the Blazers.

Perry entered the game after starting signal caller Bryan Ellis suffered an upper-body injury late in the third quarter. Ellis had to be taken off the field on a backboard.

"We had a shot there (on the final drive) and then made some mistakes," said UAB head coach Neil Callaway. "We had some penalties. It was sloppy. We've got to value the football. We had some chances.

"I thought he (Perry) came in there and showed a lot of poise. He stepped up and made a couple of good throws. We don't have a report on Brian yet, but we'll see. I was proud of our kids for playing hard."

Davis finished the day 35 of 42, giving him six games with 30-plus passes in his last eight starts. The senior, who is on the preseason Maxwell Award and Davey O'Brien Award watches, spread the wealth among eight receivers.

Lance Lewis snagged two touchdown receptions and finished with 69 yards, which moved him into eighth place all-time on the ECU list for most career receptions with 113. He is third on the career TD receptions list behind record-holder Larry Shannon (21) and current Dallas Cowboy Dwayne Harris (20).

Reggie Bullock paced the Pirates' ground attack with a career-best 169 yards rushing and one touchdown. The JUCO transfer is ECU's first 150-yard rusher since Dominique Lindsay rambled for 151 yards against Arkansas on Jan. 2, 2010.

The Pirates amassed 542 yards of total offense.

"Nobody has stopped our offense. We have stopped ourselves with mistakes in all three games," said McNeill. "I think we have an offense that is as potent as last year and we'll get there. We have an offensive line that is growing. Our running backs understand the offense and we ran the ball very well today."