ECU Falls to No. 22 Temple

After a strong first half, East Carolina's offense was not able to reach the red zone in the second half against No. 22 Temple. The Owl's capitalized on two turnovers and a blocked punt to leave with a 24-14 victory.

Greenville -- Looking to ruin Temple’s (7-0, 4-0 AAC) perfect season East Carolina (4-4, 2-2 AAC) came out of the tunnel at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium with plenty of motivation for this high stakes game.

Trying to knock off the team that beat them last season, and gain ground in the standings, the high energy level may have back fired. On Temple’s first series the ECU defense gave up a personal foul and a pass interference that totaled to 30 yards and lead the Owl’s to the end zone. ECU would go on to receive nine penalties for a total of 99 yards.

“We had too many, ten too many,” said running back Chris Hairston said. “We shouldn’t have that many in a game. If we just cut that in half the outcome could have been different. The penalties just held the whole team back.”

The first quarterback that took the field for ECU was James Summers. After ECU’s offense was held to just 16 yards on the first two possessions, Blake Kemp was called on and go on to play the majority of the snaps. Kemp finished the night with 31 completions on 48 attempts for 272 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

“I thought Blake came in and moved the ball well on them,” Ruffin McNeill said. “They had a plan for both quarterbacks and we knew that. I thought Blake made some real competitive plays, throws… You always want more but I’m proud of Blake coming in and battling like he did.”

With just over two minutes to play in the first half, trailing 14-10, Blake Kemp marched the offense down the field. Connecting on two long passes of 30 yards to Trevon Brown and then a 21 yard pass and run to Bryce Williams.

With no timeouts left Isaiah Jones absorbed the ball with one hand, bringing it into his chest, then fell out of bounds to stop the clock. With just over 20 seconds remaining Kemp connected with Quay Johnson for his first ever collegiate touchdown that put ECU ahead 14-10 at the end of half.

The ECU defense held Temples’ Jahad Thomas- the conference leading rusher- to just 75 yards on 20 carries. The defense was heavily relied on throughout the second half while ECU’s offense could not find a rhythm.

With 10 minutes to play in the game Temple’s defense forced ECU to a three-and-out on their own 25 yard line. Leading 14-10, on 4th and 5 yards, ECU sent the punting team out onto the field to pin Temple back on their end of the field and rely on a defensive stop once again.

However for the second time during the game, Temple defensive lineman Sharif Finch was able to reach Worth Gregory and block the punt. Just eight plays later Temple took the lead and never looked back.

“Fifty-six, we knew about him,” McNeill said. “We got pressure on him. He jumped over the shield, which you can jump between the shield. Normally we get it off in pretty good time. We’re going to have to watch the film on that one. Disappointed it happened.”

ECU’s offense was held 154 passing yards and six rushing yards all second half. The Pirates threw one interception and fumbled the ball, both in the second half, that halted ECU’s driving offensive possessions. With the penalties and lack of offense ECU did not reach the red zone in the second half.

“Just putting ourselves in bad situations. We were never really ahead of the chains. All night we were third and long or second and long and it makes it really hard on coach Nichol to make the call and we put ourselves in those situations so will just have to fix the errors.”

With the second loss in conference play ECU still sits in second place in the AAC East, behind Temple. The Pirates will need their conference foes to knock off Temple and to win out themselves if they have a hope of making it into the conference championship game.

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