Bizarre! How else to describe East Carolina's 44-43 win over Southern Miss Saturday night on CSS. We watched in Hattiesburg, MS as the Golden Eagles built a 20-0 first quarter lead before the Pirates had even recorded a first down.
Game over, right? Not hardly! Southern Miss self-destructed. It wasn't so much that ECU won but more like Southern Miss loss. Not to take anything away from the Pirates comeback win because any win is important and you must give them credit for not giving up and taking advantage of the Golden Eagles mistakes and penalties. That's part of the game. But our color commentator Chuck Oliver hit the nail on the head when I asked him during the broadcast if "the last team with the ball would win the game?" His response, "the last team to make a mistake, will lose," was right on the money!
Southern Miss had a chance to grab the wheel in CUSA's Eastern Division and perhaps make a track to the conference championship game for the first time under Coach Larry Fedora. Instead the Pirates improved to 3-0 in league play, winning their 8th straight East Division game, and making them the favorites to win that division and play in the CUSA Championship Game for a third straight year.
Mind you, I use that term "favorites" very loosely with East Carolina. Their defense is awful, they can't run the ball and QB Dominique Davis is erratic at best. But they are 3-0 in a division where the other five teams are a combined 2-7. And they have Dwayne Harris! Easily the best player on the field Saturday night. Maybe the best player in the conference. As for the Golden Eagles they are 4-2 but twice now they've disappointed when they had a chance to really do something big. They of course got embarrassed on national championship when South Carolina (looking really good after beating 1 Alabama) bullied them in the season opener and then there was Saturday night. A chance to remove that ECU thorn from their side and proclaim themselves the team to beat in the East...and they didn't do it.
The four wins vs. Prairie View, Kansas, Louisiana Tech and Marshall don't salve the wounds of those two losses. 44-43 sounded like a great game and I wish I could say that it was. But after more than 20 penalties and 200 penalty yards I've reached the conclusion that both of these teams still got a lot of work to do.