Houston and East Carolina already are bowl-eligible, but there is still plenty to be decided when the teams meet Saturday in an American Athletic Conference game in Greenville, N.C.
The Pirates (6-4, 3-3 AAC) will head home after a 27-25, close-but-no-cigar loss at Cincinnati on Friday that snapped their three-game winning streak. The setback also eliminated the Pirates in the conference championship race.
The Cougars (6-4, 4-2) are still mathematically alive for a berth in the AAC championship game but will have to win out and get a lot of help.
East Carolina outplayed Cincinnati last week, amassing more yards (454-310) and winning the time-of-possession battle (36:43 to 23:17). ECU also did not commit a turnover.
The Pirates limited Cincinnati to 66 yards on the ground but were victimized by two long scoring passes (55 and 76 yards). East Carolina also allowed a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“You just can’t give up those explosive plays and the kickoff return,” East Carolina coach Mike Houston said. “That’s it. That’s the ballgame right there. If we make those plays, make a tackle on the kickoff return, it’s a different ballgame.”
East Carolina took a 25-24 lead late in the third quarter, only to see Cincinnati produce the game-winning field goal from 21 yards out with 9:42 to play.
“The way the kids battled back in the second half, got the lead — we just need to be able to finish it off there at the end,” Houston said.
The Pirates’ four losses this season are by a combined 21 points, 15 of which came in a defeat at Tulane on Oct. 8.
The Cougars came from behind to beat Temple 43-36 at home last week, bouncing back after a 77-63 loss at SMU and winning their fourth game in its past five outings.
Quarterback Clayton Tune hit Matthew Golden with a 44-yard TD pass with 40 seconds to play to cap the comeback. Tune finished with 318 total yards (289 passing, 29 rushing) and four touchdowns — three through the air.
Stacy Sneed ran for 143 yards in the win, rushing for at least 100 yards for the second time in the past four games.
“There’s been times this season when the defense has been good, times when the offense has been good, and there’s been times when the special teams has been good — and then there’s been times where all three sides stink,” Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We don’t quit, so I commend our coaches and our players for just attacking it and not quitting.”
–Field Level Media