In a game featuring two teams desperate for a win, East Carolina rode its two-quarterback system to an emphatic victory.
Freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers ran for two touchdowns while sophomore Reid Herring threw for 290 yards and a score as the Pirates beat North Carolina 41-19 before a crowd of 39,298 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Having lost to Football Championship Subdivision foe N.C. A&T, 28-23, on the same field last Sunday, East Carolina (1-1) took a 21-19 halftime lead and shut down the Tar Heels over the final two quarters.
After scoring on five of its six first-half possessions, UNC gained just 35 total yards in the third quarter. While going scoreless in the second half, the Tar Heels gaining just five first downs and 78 total yards.
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That allowed the Pirates, who amassed 510 total yards, to pull away.
Running back Darius Pinnix broke free for a 48-yard touchdown run on a third-and-4 play to put ECU up 28-19 with 10:19 left in the third quarter.
Ahlers’ 21-yard touchdown run with 14:23 to play in the game capped an 11-play, 96-yard drive that put the Pirates up 35-19.
Jake Verity’s 44-yard field goal increased ECU’s lead to 38-19 with 11:28 remaining. He added a 25-yard field goal with 5:33 left.
Herring completed 19 of 31 passes and didn’t throw an interception. Trevon Brown caught four catches to lead the Pirates with 90 receiving yards.
ECU built a 21-19 halftime lead on touchdown runs from Anthony Scott and Ahlers plus a 22-yard touchdown pass from Herring to Trevon Brown.
The lead changed hands five times in the back-and-forth first half. UNC amassed 317 total yards to ECU’s 272. But the Pirates converted their scoring chances into three touchdowns while the Tar Heels settled for four Freeman Jones field goals to go with Jordon Brown’s 12-yard touchdown run.
Brown’s touchdown put UNC up 13-7 with 13:18 remaining in the second quarter.
ECU responded with a 16-play, 86-yard drive that used 7:10 of the game clock and ended with Ahlers’ 1-yard touchdown run.
The Pirates converted four third downs on the drive, receiving help from a Tar Heels penalty on one of them.
On third-and-22 from the UNC 25, Herring threw an incomplete pass as he was running out of bounds. But UNC’s Tyler Powell hit Herring high and late after the quarterback was out of bounds, drawing a personal foul penalty to give ECU a first down at the UNC 13.
Three plays later, Herring completed a 10-yard pass to Pinnix on third-and-8 to the UNC 1. Ahlers scored on the next play to give ECU a 14-13 lead.
Jones drilled 49-yard field goal with 2:59 left before halftime to give UNC the lead again at 16-14.
But ECU quickly answered back, driving 86 yards on seven plays. Herring completed passes covering 39 yards to Tahj Deans and 10 to Deondre Farrier to move the Pirates into UNC territory.
Herring’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Trevon Brown put ECU up for good at 21-16.