Eagles flutter late, fall to Pirates
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 00:09
Last Monday, head football coach Ellis Johnson stressed how important it was to not start the season in a 0-2 hole. On Saturday, the Golden Eagles dug that hole. East Carolina ruined the home opener for Johnson and the Eagles in both teams’ conference opener. Southern Miss out-gained the Pirates by nearly 100 yards and ran 18 more plays, yet were outscored 21-7 in the second half due to numerous miscues.
Because of the “Fill it To The Top” campaign, The Rock was rocking to a crowd of more than 34,400. The Eagles forced a three-and-out on the Pirates’ opening possession and then drove 70 yards in nine plays to take an early 7-0 lead. The drive was capped by freshman Anthony Alford’s first collegiate touchdown in his first collegiate start.
After the hot start, Southern Miss’s offense finished the first half with six straight punts, five of which came after three-and-outs. Neither teams’ offense seemed to find rhythm as the defenses held them in check. East Carolina punted seven times in the first half before closing with a field goal to cut the lead down to 7-3.
Everything came apart for the Golden Eagles in the third quarter. Their four third-quarter possessions all ended in turnovers, which East Carolina turned into a missed field goal and three touchdowns. Alford’s day was done after his fumble was recovered and returned for a touchdown late in the third quarter.
Red-shirt junior Chris Campbell replaced Alford with just more than a minute left in the third quarter. His first drive went eight plays and ended in a touchdown to cut ECU’s lead to 24-14. Momentum turned back in Southern Miss’s favor, but a huge drop killed the following drive and all of the momentum. The Eagles got little else going the rest of the game, falling to 0-2 on the season and 0-1 in conference play.
Campbell finished the day 11 of 21 with 145 yards and a touchdown while Alford went 6 of 14 for 88 yards with an interception and a rushing touchdown. Johnson promised to look at the film before making a decision, but the tone of the post-game press conference sounded like Alford would get the next start.
Defensively, the Eagles only allowed the Pirates to gain 228 yards of total offense and 171 yards through the air. Most of the damage was done on a 55-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Shane Carden to Justin Hardy.
“I thought they played competitively, and I didn’t see that at Nebraska,” Johnson said of his defense. “We got some good players that are young. I thought they stepped up today and got some critical stops on third down, and I thought they made some really good plays.”
Senior Tracey Lampley touched the ball a total of five times: two in the running game, two receptions, and one kickoff return. He accounted for 73 yards with those five touches, which is an average of 14.6 yards per touch. The Eagles went for it on fourth down three times, converting one, while attempting zero field goals.
Southern Miss’s next game is in Bowling Green, Ky. against Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers are coming off an upset win over the University of Kentucky and currently boast a 2-1 overall record.