It only makes sense ECU would lose to what most saw as an inferior opponent in Tulane after back-to-back hard fought wins (including one against UNC Chapel Hill)… right? During Ruffin McNeill's tenure there have been some unexplainable losses, but yesterday's can be easily explained.
The loss to Tulane was embarrassing for ECU. The Pirates were outplayed by the Green Wave until late in the game and shot themselves in the foot multiple times.
It's tough to win a game when you don't take advantage of red-zone opportunities. ECU drove into the red-zone six times resulting in only one late touchdown.
"There were some opportunities before the end of the game, but I was proud of the way we fell down by 10 and were able to battle back," said head coach Ruffin McNeill.
"I thought we made some good decisions to get back in the game and had a chance to win it at the end. You've got to make those plays. We came up short, but I liked the way the kids kept fighting, kept believing."
The Pirates had multiple chances to put the ball in the end zone, but it wasn't until 1:48 left in the fourth quarter that ECU scored the first offensive touchdown – senior running back Vintavious Cooper scored on a goal-line scamper.
This loss shows that this Pirate team can still lose on career days from Carden (passing yards) and Hardy (receptions and passing yards) along with another solid outing against the run.
The rush defense, which came into the game ranked No.5 in the country (80.6 ypg), held Tulane to just 85 yards on the ground, but the secondary was attacked as a result. Senior free safety Damon Magazu had his second interception of the season (second in two games), but the Pirates only got three points out of it.
ECU was held to just 63 yards on the ground. Early on Lincoln Riley tried to get the running game going to no avail. Riley called three-straight runs to Vintavious Cooper on one drive and despite getting seven on the first carry, it led to a three-and-out.
It was a game of field goals essentially and ECU didn't win.
A lot of blame may also be placed on the Pirates senior place-kicker warren harvey who missed in potential game-winning tries from 42-yards and 35. His final miss set up the game-winning kick from 2012 Lou Groza Award winner Cairo Santos and Harvey finished the game 4-for-7.
While this loss is a blemish on what most fans had hoped would be a one-loss season with a crack at a BCS Bowl, it's not time to press the panic button just yet. If ECU can write this loss off as one it mailed in, the team still has tremendous potential moving forward.
The Pirates even have a shot at proving who their worth as the best team in the state of North Carolina when they travel to N.C. State in November, so there is a lot to look forward to. The team is now 4-2 overall (2-1 C-USA) with Southern Mississippi coming for a conference matchup in Dowdy Ficklen Saturday.
Coach McNeill has plans of forgetting this loss and focusing on moving forward.
"The 24 hour rule is in effect. Our goal is still in front of us," McNeill said. "We will start getting ready for (Sunday) night. We will evaluate film, make corrections and move on."