East Carolina’s first ever trip to Connecticut did not go as planned.
The Pirates allowed UConn’s 404 yards on offense as the Huskies cruised to a 31-13 victory over ECU at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn.
ECU has now lost 16 straight games when scoring 20 points or less. The Pirates didn’t score an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter, and went 5-for-15 on third down conversions.
“We (have) got to execute better,” quarterback James Summers said.
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The Pirates (4-5, 2-3 American) came up empty on their first two drives, but thanks to their defense, they would score first.
ECU junior defensive back DaShawn Benton stepped in front of UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs’ pass and ran it back for a 32-yard touchdown. The Pirates led 6-0 after the extra point was blocked.
The Huskies (4-5, 2-3) would cut the Pirates’ lead to 6-3 on their next possession when UConn kicker Bobby Puyol converted a 45-yard field, tying a career-long.
After a booming 69-yard punt by Worth Gregory that pinned the Huskies inside their 10-yard line, Shirreffs and the Huskies went to work. UConn put together a 12-play, 94-yard touchdown drive — its longest of the season — that took up 5:52, and ended with running back Arkeel Newsome scoring from two yards out to put the Huskies up 10-6.
UConn wouldn’t relinquish the lead.
The score would remain the same until 3:38 remaining in the third quarter when Shirreffs connected with Alec Bloom over the middle for a 23-yard score (his first of the year) to put UConn up 17-6.
On the Huskies’ next possession, Newsome took the first play from scrimmage 90 yards to the end zone for his second touchdown of the game to put the Huskies up 24-6. It was the longest run of Newsome’s career.
Summers and the ECU offense could not get much going, so head coach Ruffin McNeill made a switch and put Blake Kemp in under center.
“We felt like we needed some offense and (we) wanted to get James some longer looks and longer reps and went with Blake late, but came up short,” McNeill said. “We just wanted to give him a chance.”
After being intercepted twice, Kemp led the Pirates on a four-play, 49-yard drive in just 1:25 to cut the lead to nine points with 9:25 remaining, but that is all they would get.
“It comes down to critical makes, execution consistently (and0 you can’t turn the football over,” McNeill said. “I thought we had some chances for some makes there early and we talked about critical makes and critical errors this week…they bit us again.”
Shirreffs added a 3-yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach with 4:29 left.
After being plagued by penalties last week against Temple (nine for 99 yards) the Pirates committed seven penalties Friday night for 64 yards.
Summers finished the game 12 of 21 for 87 yards. Kemp was 7 of 11 for 50 yards. The two combined for four interceptions.
Newsome finished with 25 carries for 179 yards and two touchdowns. He had 244 all-purpose yards.
ECU now needs to win two of its last three games in order to be bowl eligible for the fourth straight season.
“We have three games left and I feel confident in this team and our staff, looking forward to the challenge,” McNeill said.