A Tulsa squad marred with injuries turned in a valiant effort against the C-USA East Division-leading East Carolina Pirates, but dropped a 58-24 decision in front of 44,076 fans at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
East Carolina improved to 7-2 overall and 5-1 in C-USA play, while Tulsa fell to 2-7 and 1-4 on the season. For the Hurricane, Dane Evans threw for 142 yards and one TD, while Trey Watts rushed for 120 yards and one touchdown and caught four passes for 48 yards and another score. Defensively, Shawn Jackson had a game-high 14 tackles and three TFls for –nine yards, while freshman Will Barrow had 11 tackles, two PBUs and one fumble recovery for a 37-yard touchdown.
East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden completed 34-of-50 passes for 384 yards and five TDs, while also rushing for two touchdowns.
Tulsa came out and scored the first points of the game on an 11-play, 77-yard drive against the Pirates. The first of three interceptions that led to East Carolina touchdowns came with less than two minutes in the first half, giving the Pirates the ball at the 18-yard line.
Despite the late score, Tulsa trailed just 21-10 at halftime. But the Pirates scored 23 fourth quarter points to put the game away, however, six of those came on an interception on the last play of the game that went for 100 yards.
The Tulsa offense managed just 113 yards in the second half after putting up 250 yards in the first 30 minutes against the Pirates. Tulsa put up 188 rushing yards against Conference' USA's top team against the rush, as ECU allowed just 85.2 rushing yards coming into the game.
East Carolina increased its halftime lead to 28-10 on Shane Carden's third touchdown pass of the day at the 5:44 mark of the period, this one going to Justin Hardy for five yards.
Tulsa's Ja'Terian Douglas took the subsequent kickoff 83 yards on a, flashy, twisting, and exciting run for the Hurricane. The timely run put the Hurricane at the ECU 5-yard line. On the first play, Evans threw 15 yards to Trey Watts for the score, cutting the ECU lead to 28-17 with 5:19 on the third quarter clock.
East Carolina then scored 30 points in the final 17 minutes of the game for the victory.
The first of those 30 points took ECU just 3:33 to answer Tulsa's third score with an eight-play, 78-yard drive to go ahead 35-17 with 1:46 remaining in the second half.
A fumble by Evans in the pocket at the 13:51 mark of the final period gave the Pirates a short field from the Hurricane eight-yard line. Three plays later, Carden sneaked in from one yard out for a 41-17 lead.
The Hurricane defense created a score of its' own as DeWitt Jennings forced a fumble by ECU's Lance Ray, as Will Barrow scooped the ball and ran the final 31 yards for the score, cutting the ECU lead to 18 points, 42-24.
East Carolina added three more scores, all coming in the final five minutes of the game, including a 19-yard field goal that capped a 16-play, 73-yard drive, and then two touchdowns coming off interceptions. The first pick-off leading to a two-play, nine-yard score and the final score ended the game on a 100-yard interception.
On the opening drive of the game, the Hurricane defense stopped East Carolina on the Pirates' first possession at the Tulsa-23-yard line. From there, Tulsa's Evans directed the Hurricane offense on a 77-yard, 11-play drive, as the red-shirt freshman quarterback completed 3-of-4 passes for 54 yards for a 7-0 Tulsa lead, as Trey Watts scored from one yard out.
The Pirates wasted little time in tying the score at 7-7 when the home team went 75 yards in seven plays and taking just 2:20 off the clock as Shane Carden ran the final yard for the touchdown.
ECU went ahead 14-7 at the 11:39 mark of the second quarter on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Carden to Cam Worthy, capping an 82-yard, 12-play drive.
Tulsa went to the ECU one-yard line, but had to settle for a 19-yard field goal by Carl Salazar with 6:44 remaining in the first half, as the Hurricane cut the ECU lead to 14-10. Watts ran 25 yards to the Pirates three-yard line for what appeared might be a Tulsa touchdown, but the Hurricane had to settle on the field goal.
The Pirates intercepted an Evans pass at the ECU 47-yard line and returned it to the Tulsa 18-yard line to set up a Pirate score late in the first half. Carden connected on the first play to Isaiah Jones for 18 yards and the TD, giving the home team a 21-10 lead with 1:02 remaining until halftime.
At the intermission, East Carolina held a slight 259 to 250-yard edge in total offense. ECU threw for 219 yards to Tulsa's 11 yards, while the Hurricane had a 139 to 40-yard edge in rushing, as Watts went over the 100-yard rushing mark with 104 first-half yards.
Tulsa returns home for a Thursday night game against Conference USA West Division co-leader Marshall Thundering Herd. Game time this Thursday is at 6:30 pm (CT). The game will be televised on FOX Sports 1.
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