After yesterday’s incredible come-from-behind victory here at STAT BOX STORIES, the pressure was on for today’s game to be equally as memorable. Sticking to the rivalry theme, the decision was made to stage a match-up between the North Carolina State Wolfpack of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the East Carolina University Pirates of Conference-USA. While the two schools do not meet each other every year due to their schedules and different conferences, it remains an important in-state rivalry.
The last match-up between these schools came on October 16th, 2010 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, NC; the Pirates emerged victorious 33-27 in OT to avenge the previous loss 30-24 in OT at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, NC. ECU is one of those schools in college football that I have no personal connection to but enjoy playing as in the game thanks to their unique field art, the “Boneyard” student section, and their uniforms; especially with their updated “Jolly Roger” helmets in NCAA Football 13. With that in mind—and at the risk of angering Wolfpack fan and friend of the site, Owen Good (of Kotaku fame)—I suited up in the purple and gold of ECU for this home game using NCAA Football 13; click the link to find out what happened!
For the second consecutive game, the CPU won the coin toss and NC State elected to kick off to begin the game. My first drive with ECU was very quick three-and-out, and NC State got the ball just a little ways past midfield in their own end. The Wolfpack put together a solid drive, but eventually had to settle for a 31-yard field goal to take the opening points and 3-0 lead.
The next possession for the Pirates was more successful, lasting over three minutes and ending with a successful field goal conversion of their own with 1:35 to go in the opening quarter. The game did not stay tied for very long, however, as NC State used the vertical passing game to drive down the field and scored on a toss play in the goal-to-go situation for a 10-3 lead to end the opening frame.
ECU’s first drive in the second quarter was halted by a holding penalty at midfield, leading to a punt; the Pirates defense forced a punt from the Wolfpack on the next possession, however, and ECU got the ball back and drove into NC State territory before converting a 41-yard field goal to make the score 10-6 with 2:17 remaining in the first half. NC State took less than 40 seconds to get into scoring range on their next offensive drive, but a pass broken up in the end zone on third down forced another Wolfpack field goal with 1:36 remaining.
This is where the game got a little out of hand. With the score 13-6 in favor of NC State, it only took two plays for ECU to score on a 65-yard touchdown pass and tie the game up at 13-all.
When NC State got the ball back on the ensuing kickoff, the Wolfpack didn’t waste any time either, scoring on a 77-yard pass to their tight end to regain a 20-13 lead.
Less than 20 seconds later, ECU bounced back and topped the last NC State touchdown with an 87-yard touchdown pass, tying the game at 20-all and closing the scoring for the first half as NC State chose to safely run out the clock after 27 points had been scored in just over two minutes to end the second quarter.
Despite the tie score, NC State had the ball first in the third quarter and a chance to re-establish their lead. A holding penalty on the kickoff return, however, stalled the offense and resulted in a three-and-out. ECU’s ensuing possession drove down the field and it wasn’t long before the Pirates were in scoring range. On a broken pass play, QB #7 attempted a scramble and was the target of a hard hit from the NC State linebacking corps. He had to sit out for a few plays, but on his first play back in—a 3rd Down attempt inside the 20-yard-line—he found WR #15 for a 16-yard touchdown and ECU’s first lead of the game, 27-20.
The next NC State possession nearly ended in disappointment as an ECU defender intercepted a pass from QB #8 and started to bring the ball back into Wolfpack territory. However, a fumble was forced and NC State’s quarterback picked the ball back up and advanced into ECU territory! Taking advantage of the good fortune, the Wolfpack scored on a 10-yard rush with 1:24 left in the third quarter to once again bring the score level.
It did not take much time for ECU to get back into scoring range, passing the ball downfield and setting up a 1st-and-Goal as the third quarter ended. On the first play of the fourth quarter, a draw play opened up a gap in the middle of the Wolfpack defense and ECU’s 5-yard rushing touchdown put them back on top, 34-27.
NC State’s next possession featured an interception again, and this time there was no fortunate forced fumble to regain the ball. Consecutive sacks, however, forced ECU to punt the ball back. The offensive struggles continued, however, as QB #8 immediately threw another interception on the first play of the drive, with the ball returned into Wolfpack territory. ECU worked the clock with rushing plays, eventually settling for a 31-yard field goal and a 10-point lead with just over two minutes remaining in the game.
Half a minute later, NC State found more fortune as poor tackling on a short completion opened up the field for a 62-yard touchdown pass to WR #4. With the deficit cut to three points, the Wolfpack had no choice but to attempt an onside kick, but it was recovered by ECU’s tight end.
With only two timeouts remaining, NC State had to step up on defense if they wanted any chance to get the ball back and try to send it into overtime. At the NC State 36-yard-line, ECU was facing 4th-and-2 with just over a minute remaining. A gutsy call to go for it and close out the game resulted in a completed pass for the 1st Down and a victory for ECU!
Despite having possession for nearly three minutes more than NC State, ECU was out-gained 510-473 on offense. The Pirates held an edge in rushing yards—112 to 90—but did so on 14 more carries. The Wolfpack held a clear advantage through the air—gaining 59 more yards than ECU—but the Pirates held the edge in passing scores. Each team was about 50% on 3rd Down Conversions, and the only 4th Down attempt was made by ECU to close out the game. NC State lost the turnover battle in throwing three interceptions, which helped ECU eke out the 3-point victory.
Player of the Game honors were bestowed upon ECU WR #19, who only made 4 catches but gained 183 yards on his way to two touchdowns and a 45.7 yard-per-catch average. NC State’s QB #8 threw for 420 yards and 2 touchdowns, but his 3 interceptions hurt his team’s chances for victory; even though ECU’s QB #7 threw for 361 yards and a lower completion percentage, his ability to avoid turnovers helped in winning the game. NC State had a dynamic duo in the receiving game, with WR #4 and TE #87 each catching a touchdown and accumulating over 100 yards through the air. On defense, ECU’s CB #8 picked off two passes to help the Pirates defense do jut enough to emerge victorious.
And so ends the second STAT BOX STORIES entry using NCAA Football 13; after the comeback heroics of yesterday’s game, this one was much more of a slugfest, with each team holding a puncher’s chance at victory. Be sure to come back tomorrow for a Sunday entry: the “Battle of the Bricks” between Miami of Ohio and Ohio from the Mid-American Conference!