East Carolina 35, Arkansas St. 18
GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ Junior Smith rushed for a career-high 232 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday in East Carolina’s 35-18 victory over Arkansas State.
The Pirates (5-5) kept alive hopes for a winning season as Sean McConnell also threw three touchdown passes. The Indians (1-9) didn’t surrender easily, their efforts aided in part by East Carolina’s failure to move the ball consistently.
East Carolina ran its lead to 28-10 on McConnell’s second scoring pass, a 30-yarder to Morris Letcher with 1:38 left in the third period. The Indians rallied with a 66-yard drive which ended on Savastin Henry’s 7-yard run with 11:22 left. They added Stacy Crockett’s conversion run to cut the deficit to 28-18.
Arkansas State’s next bid began at its own 1, but the drive ended at the 23. Smith returned to the lineup after sitting out much of the fourth period, and he helped ice the victory with a 50-yard run to the Arkansas State 16.
Four plays later, McConnell tossed a 2-yard scoring pass to Dwight Linville with 37 seconds left,
McConnell, a senior who played an entire game for the first time in his career, completed 12 of 22 passes for 172 yards. He also had three interceptions.
Smith, a sophomore who lost ground because of penalties which wiped out yardage, got to within 13 yards of the school record of 245 yards set by Billy Wightman against Davidson in 1969.
Arkansas State’s season was summed up in the first half. The Indians opened with an onside kick, but the ball didn’t go the required 10 yards and the kicking team was offside. An interception on East Carolina’s second play from scrimmage was nullified by a roughing-the-passer penalty.
A blocked punt by Freddy Wilson gave Arkansas State the ball at East Carolina’s 31, but Tom Sears had his first pass intercepted by Greg Grandison, who returned it 52 yards to set up Smith’s first 1-yard touchdown run with 4:54 left in the opening period.
Sears hit Anthony Hampton on a 55-yard pass play to the Pirates 35, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed the Indians back and they settled for Ryan Jose’s 37-yard field goal with 12:45 left in the half. It was the team’s first field goal this season after five misses.
After recovering a muffed punt, East Carolina marched from midfield to score on McConnell’s 17-yard pass to Charles Miles with 7:06 left before halftime.
All the bad luck didn’t happen to Arkansas State. The Pirates were penalized for delay of game before the kickoff to open the second half. When East Carolina got the ball back, Smith got his second 1-yard touchdown with 11:06 left in the third period.
On the ensuing kickoff, Sears led Arkansas State on a 95-yard drive over five minutes, capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jack Dollarhide with 4:58 left in the third quarter for a 21-10 score.