After a back and forth game, East Carolina University football (3-3-0, 1-1-0 American Athletic Conference) snapped its three-game winning streak against the University of Central Florida (3-2-1, 1-1-0 AAC) 20-16 on Oct 9.
The game took place in Orlando, Florida, as kickoff was at 6 p.m. where the Pirates started offensively with junior quarterback Holton Ahlers. For the Knights, backup freshman quarterback Mikey Keene started for his second game of the season while starting junior quarterback Dillon Gabriel is out indefinitely with a broken clavicle. So far this season, ECU has averaged 32 points per game and UCF with 41 so this low-scoring game took both averages down.
“That game, you’re going to look at tomorrow and it’s going to be one play here, one play there,” head coach Mike Houston said according to ECUPirates. “You thought you had the game won multiple times.”
In the first quarter ECU freshman running back Keaton Mitchell was able to receive the ball and make a run for it, but dropped the ball for an early fumble recovered by UCF. In the Knights drive, due to various defensive penalties by the Pirates, UCF walked down the field until they were in field goal range to begin the second quarter.
To get the first points on the board, Knights junior placekicker Daniel Obarski opened the second quarter with a 35-yard field goal at 14:57 to take the score to 3-0. When ECU got the ball back the offense was able to utilize Mitchell to get the Pirates down the field. The Pirates were not able to get to the end zone but made it to UCF’s 19 to even the score out 3-3 with a field goal by redshirt freshman placekicker Owen Daffer.
Both teams continued to trade possession for the rest of the second quarter. On ECU’s last drive of the half, Ahlers was sacked for a play and then threw his one interception of the game. His pass attempt for sophomore wide receiver Jsi Hatfield was intercepted by UCF’s junior linebacker Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste. As time ran out in the half, the Knights were not able to make it down the field for another score, leaving the first half score 3-3.
UCF received the ball to begin the second half but quickly lost possession as Kenne threw for an interception. As he intended to pass to redshirt senior wide receiver Brandon Johnson, the ball landed in ECU redshirt freshman safety Juan Powell’s hands. The Pirates were able to act on their possession and got in another field goal to take the lead 6-3.
The Knights acted on their next play as they made it 75 yards down the field in seven plays as sophomore running back Johnny Richardson ran in his first rushing touchdown of the season to put the Knights on top 10-6. Three drives later Ahlers connected with graduate student wide receiver Audie Omotosho for 27 yards for his first receiving touchdown of the season. That play resulted in the Pirates taking the lead back 13-10.
Going into the fourth quarter the score stood at 13-10. The Pirates continuously moved down the field for the first drive of the game but in the end settled for a 34-yard field goal by Daffer after 16 plays to take the score to 16-10 Pirates up. UCF completed a successful drive as well which included a 49-yard dash by Knights player Richardson. Obarski ended the drive with a 40-yard field goal to lessen the Pirate’s lead 16-13.
“He’s (Richardson) a very talented player,” Houston said to ECUPirates. “We felt like, watching the film early in the year, he was their best back. I know they were without another back tonight, but I think he’s the best one as far as playmaking ability, and he made the plays.”
As the clock wound down, UCF and ECU continued to trade possession as the Knights tried to get on the board again to take the lead. UCF’s redshirt sophomore running back Mark-Antony Richards got set up on the one-yard line to complete a touchdown on the third down to take the final lead 20-16. ECU freshman running back Rahjai Harris completed a 20-yard play attempting to get the Pirates in the endzone but with six seconds left the game came to an end 20-16.
Both ECU running backs Harris and Mitchell switched out throughout the game to get down the field for the Pirates. Harris led the game in rushing yards with 73 and sophomore wide receiver Tyler Snead led with 82 receiving yards. Ahlers ended with 208 yards passing to add to his resume as one of the four current National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) quarterbacks with over 8000 passing yards and 1000 plus yards rushing.
“Hats off to UCF; they made the plays there in the fourth quarter to win the game,” Houston said according to ECUPirates. “I hate it that we had to be a loser.”
The Pirates will have on bye week and will not play Oct. 16 but will continue their conference games on the road on Oct. 23. The team will travel to Houston, Texas, to face the University of Houston (5-1-0, 3-0-0 AAC). The kickoff time has yet to be announced but will be broadcasted on 107.9 WNCT-FM.