Tar Heels swarm Pirates

Running back Reggie Bullock (28) and the Pirates totalled 109 yards rushing on 33 carries against the Tar Heels. -Drew Carter | The East Carolinian

The Pirates entered last Saturday’s contest at Kenan Stadium on a high, coming off of a conference win against rival Southern Miss, but left disappointed and frustrated after a 27-6 loss to in state rival UNC-Chapel Hill.

“It was a tough, disappointing loss for us,” said ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill. “We had some mishaps happen that really set us back a little bit and against a team like that, as talented as they are, you can’t have those setbacks.”

On the way to his post-game interview, ECU starting quarterback Shane Carden entered the press room with bruises and cuts all across his arms and body, surely results from the seven sacks he took from a swarming Tar Heel defense.

“They brought a little pressure here and there, but I have to do a better job of getting rid of the ball,” said Carden. Of the seven sacks allowed, six occurred in the second half. This is very unlike a Pirates offensive line that only allowed three sacks as a team in its previous three games.

In addition to the sacks, North Carolina really came out of the second half and seized control of the football game after only leading 10-6 at intermission. The Tar Heels outscored the Pirates 14-0 in the third quarter, highlighted by a 62-yard touchdown pass from Bryn Renner to Sean Tapley that broke the game wide open at 17-6.

Following the Tapley touchdown, preseason All-Atlantic Coast Conference linebacker Kevin Reddick came around the edge and got to Carden, forcing him into a fumble that led to a back breaking four-yard touchdown run by Giovani Benard to make it 24-6.

“It was personal for me because it’s back home, ECU,” said Reddick, who is from New Bern. “I told them I couldn’t go home unless I beat ECU.”

His forced fumble turned out to be the lone turnover by either team.

Not all was lost for the Pirates though. As a team, they rushed for 109 yards on 33 carries after factoring in loss yardage from sacks. Leading the way was junior transfer Vintavious Cooper, who rushed for 68 yards on six carries.

“(Cooper) did a good job,” said McNeill. “I really like what (Cooper) brings to the table.” Despite Cooper’s standout effort, McNeill went on to say that he does not want a feature tailback, but rather a running back by committee.

Another one of the backs that saw a lot of playing time was junior transfer Hunter Furr. He transferred from North Carolina last year, but had to sit out the 2011 season due to NCAA rules.

“It was just another game,” said Furr after the game, who didn’t seem jarred at all in his return to Chapel Hill, rushing for 19 yards on 5 carries.

The biggest setback for the ECU offense was their inability to score in the red zone. The Pirates had two opportunities in the second quarter but only came up with field goals on both occasions.

“We’ve got to finish those drives,” said Carden, who went on to say that the cause of red zone inefficiency was failing to play “11 man football.”

North Carolina entered the game with a losing record, after dropping back-to-back games at Wake Forest and Louisville, and really played with a sense of urgency.

“We’ve got a much better taste in our mouth tonight than we have had, so it’s been good to get that taste out of our mouth,” said UNC head coach Larry Fedora.

UNC quarterback Bryn Renner experienced success against a decimated ECU secondary that was without two of its cornerbacks, Kristopher Sykes and Jacobi Jenkins, due to injury. After throwing for a career high 363 yards the previous week against Louisville, Renner threw for 321 yards along with two touchdowns. In his return to the UNC lineup, running back Giovani Benard had 102 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.

With the loss, ECU’s all-time record against North Carolina drops to 2-13-1, with the Pirates dropping its last four matchups against the Heels. ECU’s lone win in Chapel Hill came in 1975, and the six points they scored last Saturday night were the fewest in the series since UNC shutout the Pirates 56-0 in 1981.

After a three game road trip, ECU (2-2) will finally return home this Saturday when they host Conference USA opponent UTEP (1-3), who lost a competitive contest, 37-26, against a very talented Wisconsin Badgers team in Madison.

Kick off  at Dowdy-Ficklen stadium is set for 7 p.m.

 

This writer can be contacted at sports@theeastcarolinian.com.

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