Bowl Victory Latest Step To Respect For East Carolina
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ A year ago, East Carolina slipped away from the Liberty Bowl a 30-0 loser determined to gain respect.
The school, with an enrollment of 17,445, had been snubbed when the Conference USA sent out invitations for its new league. The future for the independent program looked bleak.
Flash forward, and East Carolina finishes 1995 with a 9-3 record, capped by a 19-13 victory over Stanford Saturday in the Liberty Bowl. The Pirates, who now have their own television contract with ESPN, are looking ahead.
``I think we can play with anybody in the country,″ tight end Scott Richards said. ``What we did (Saturday) makes a statement, and that will carry over to next season.″
``I feel we are as healthy as any college program in the country,″ East Carolina coach Steve Logan said. ``Heavy recruiting on defense is the key.″
East Carolina had been known for a flashy offense headed by quarterback Marcus Crandell, who passed Jeff Blake this season as the school’s all-time passing and offense leader.
But the Pirates beat Stanford, also an offensive-minded team averaging 30 points per game, with defense. East Carolina forced four turnovers and allowed the Cardinal 211 yards total offense in the St. Jude Liberty Bowl, which is named for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
``Their defense stymied us just enough,″ Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham said. ``We could not get our offense on track, and I think that was the difference in the game.
``When you combine the early turnovers that we had, it just gave them a big enough cushion that we just couldn’t get back on top.″
For Stanford (7-4-1), the loss ended Willingham’s first season in which he turned around a team that was 3-7-1 in 1994.
East Carolina never trailed, taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when Daren Hart intercepted a Mark Butterfield pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown.
Chad Holcomb kicked a career-high four field goals, a Liberty Bowl record, with a fifth try blocked by Stanford’s Kwame Ellis. Holcomb’s final kick, a 34-yarder with 1:15 left, capped the scoring.
Butterfield threw for 2,533 yards this season. But East Carolina held him to 15-of-27 for 139 yards with two interceptions. A Butterfield fumble led to one of Holcomb’s field goals.
Crandell performed a bit better even though his receivers dropped several catchable balls. He was 19-of-46 for 218 yards with an interception.
A third straight trip to the Liberty Bowl is a possibility for East Carolina. The Pirates have a chance at the bowl bid for the next two years if they have a better record than the Conference USA champion.
``We can run with anybody in the country,″ Crandell said. ``We can play with anybody.
``We like it here and look forward to coming back and doing it again.″