E. Carolina 19, Stanford 13
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ Chad Holcomb kicked a career-high four field goals and East Carolina’s defense forced four turnovers as the Pirates downed Stanford 19-13 Saturday in the Liberty Bowl.
The Pirates (9-3) never trailed but didn’t seal the victory until Marcus Crandell directed an 11-play drive that ate up 5:13 of the clock, setting up Holcomb’s fourth field goal, a 34-yarder, with 1:15 to go.
Damon Dunn gave Stanford (7-4-1) one last chance by returning the kickoff to the Cardinal 47. But Brian Manning dropped Mark Butterfield’s fourth-and-1 pass inside the Pirate 20 with 11 seconds left.
Featuring a pair of quarterbacks who each threw for more than 2,500 yards, the game was expected to be an offensive shootout. However, East Carolina intercepted Butterfield twice, and he finished 15-of-27 for 139 yards.
Crandell performed a bit better, completing 19-of-49 for 218 yards and one interception, as his receivers repeatedly dropped catchable passes. East Carolina converted on only four of 19 third downs compared to 4-of-15 for Stanford.
A junior, Holcomb started the game with the longest kick of his career at 46 yards and added kicks of 25 and 41 yards before his final field goal. His only miss came on a block by Stanford’s Kwame Ellis.
Stanford pulled within 16-13 early in the third quarter.
Nicodemus Watts blocked a Mark Levine punt and returned it 21 yards before Ellis picked the ball up and scored from 2 yards out early in the third quarter.
Ellis intercepted a Crandell pass two plays later, but Stanford couldn’t convert. The Cardinal offense turned the ball over on downs at its own 32 in the quarter, while Morris Foreman hurried Butterfield into his second interception on the next possession, this one by Calvin Suggs at the Stanford 18.
East Carolina’s offense sputtered in the first half as receivers dropped five passes in the second quarter.
Stanford missed its best chance for a lead on its opening possession, but Eric Abrams’ 50-yard field goal attempt went wide left.
The Pirates’ defense gave East Carolina a 7-0 lead when Daren Hart intercepted Butterfield at the Stanford 39 and returned the ball for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Adam Salina scored Stanford’s only offensive touchdown when he capped a 13-play, 69-yard drive with a 1-yard run up the middle that pulled the Cardinal within 10-7 with 7:01 left in the second.
Stanford had a chance to score before intermission when Roderick Coleman hit Butterfield, and Travis Darden recovered for the Pirates, setting up Holcomb’s third field goal of the half.