East Carolina takes down FAU 31-13

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2013 at 7:55 pm.

GREENVILLE, N.C. — Florida Atlantic got its first taste of Conference USA football.

It didn’t go as planned.

The Owls turned the ball over three times in a 31-13 loss to the East Carolina Pirates in their conference debut on Thursday night at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville.

FAU (0-2) gained 286 yards on offense (108 rushing, 178 passing). East Carolina countered with quarterback Shane Carden’s 191 passing yards and two touchdowns, and Vintavious Cooper’s 95 rushing yards.

It was the first meeting between the schools. FAU joined C-USA after competing in the Sun Belt Conference. ECU (2-0) is set to become a member of the newly formed American Athletic Conference next season.

The Owls’ offense mustered only a pair of field goals and missed two attempts as well.

After dominating most of the first half, the Pirates’ defense provided an early third period spark.

Josh Hawkins grabbed a deflection off the hands of FAU’s DeAndre Richardson and the Pirates’ sophomore cornerback had his second career interception. He ran it to the Owls’ 5-yard line and from there Florida Atlantic held the Pirates to a 22-yard field goal less than five minutes into the second half.


Justin Hardy and East Carolina were too much for FAU. (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

Chris Hairston’s four-yard run gave the Pirates a commanding 31-6 cushion at the end of three quarters.

FAU’s William Dukes capped off an 11-play drive with a one-yard touchdown catch with 1:03 remaining.

Florida Atlantic’s defense had two sacks, recovered a fumble and never really allowed East Carolina to sustain a long offensive drive in the first half.

However, the Owls’ offense, featuring a two-quarterback system, failed to take advantage of the defense’s solid effort.

Jacquez Johnson and Greg Hankerson combined for 5 of 10 passing for 47 yards, and FAU amassed 114 yards of offense.

Davon Grayson, ECU’s true freshman, found a seam, reached up and pulled in the game’s initial touchdown. In front of a sea of Pirates’ fans decked out in all black, Grayson had his fourth touchdown grab in two games — an 18-yard score on East Carolina’s opening drive.

The Owls’ defense, backed by a sack from Cory Henry, forced ECU to punt deep in its own territory, but the offense failed to capitalize.

Robert Lohnes returned the punt to the Pirates’ 27-yard line. FAU gained two yards and settled for a Mitch Anderson 42-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 7-3 with a little more than three minutes showing on the first-quarter clock.

Anderson extended his range on the Owls’ next possession with a field goal from 46 yards.

The Pirates answered on the ensuing kickoff. Lance Ray raced down the field 85 yards, setting up ECU’s offensive possession on FAU’s 12-yard line.

Four plays later, Carden connected with Justin Hardy on a one-yard slant in the back of the end zone.

Hankerson, FAU’s freshman quarterback, tossed an interception on the Owls’ next offensive play. Maurice Falls returned it to the 12-yard line, and three Cooper runs later, ECU had opened its advantage to 21-6 early in the first half.

Anderson missed a 37-yard field goal with a minute remaining in the half that would have pulled to within.

Notes: East Carolina received the opening kickoff for the 13th consecutive game. … ECU has scored on its first drive in both games. .. Junior Maurice Falls had his first interception with the Pirates.