BIRMINGHAM, ALA - East Carolina punched their ticket to the Conference USA championship game with a 17-13 win over Alabama-Birmingham(3-8, 2-5 CUSA) Saturday night.
ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney had an adequate outing with 222 yards on 19 of 25 passing including a 10-yard touchdown to Davon Drew and two interceptions.
Then backup quarterback Rob Kass came on late to engineer a nine play, 55-yard drive and Brandon Simmons scored on a 2-yard touchdown run with 2:20 to go in the game to seal the deal for the Pirates(7-4/5-2 C-USA) in cold conditions as snow fell on Birmingham's Legion Field Saturday night.
Pierre Bell intercepted a Joe Webb at the 31 yard line on the next drive to preserve the victory after the ball careened off the hands of Blazer tight end Zach Lankford.
The score was tied at halftime, 7-7.
39 rushes only yielded 56 yards for ECU while the Pirates mustered 278 yards of total offense.
"I'm really proud of these players and what they've done. It's a different team than from the beginnning but the way these players hung in there and they just keep competing," said ECU coach Skip Holtz.
"It was a night where we turned over the ball five times and really we missed two field goals and we've only punted about two times tonight, but there aren't any points on the board because we keep shooting ourselves in the foot."
There are some young guys who stepped up huge tonight. Dustin Lineback as a starting linebacker tonight as a walk-on is doing a phenominal job, to see Joe Wommack grow up, I think he's got a chance to be a special player and Darryl Freeney made some plays tonight, as well."
"We've just got to eliminate the mistakes, we've got a UTEP team this weekend on a short week but I'm really proud of these players right now," Holtz said, "When you go into that locker room and look in the eyes of a Zack Slate and a Pierre Bell, so many of these seniors, a Fred Hicks, a Davon Drew, those guys have really stuck it out and they've provided unbelieable leadership for this team right now."
Holtz expressed pride in winning the East Divison of Conference USA for the first time.
"The east has a lot of really good football in it and I'm really proud of these players right now."
Next Week it's East Carolina - UTEP on Thanksgiving Friday for Senior Day as the Pirates play at home for the final time in this season's shelf life. Kickoff is set for 1pm in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.