Friday, December 13, 2002
East Carolina 40, Texas Tech 27
HOUSTON -- When it was over, only the East Carolina Pirates and their gleeful fans went home happy.
East Carolina scored 34 straight first-half points, including two 1-yard runs by Leonard Henry and a 71-yard punt return by Keith Stokes, as the Pirates stunned Texas Tech 40-27 in the first galleryfurniture.com Bowl on Wednesday night.
"I never thought we'd come out like that at the start," said Pirates quarterback David Garrard, voted the game's most valuable player and offensive player of the game. "But we wanted to keep on pounding and pounding. We did that all the way."
A crowd of 33,899 saw the first bowl game played in the Astrodome since the last Bluebonnet Bowl in 1987. But ticketing problems caused hundreds of fans to miss much of the first half standing at the will-call window waiting to get their tickets.
In a game expected to be an offensive shootout, only East Carolina came through in the first half with an assortment of trick plays and fancy running by Stokes. He had 266 total yards in the game and was voted the special teams player of the game.
"I knew all we needed was a spark, whether it happened on offense or special teams," Stokes said. "This time it happened on special teams."
Stokes had five kickoff returns for 105 yards, three punt returns for 82 yards, rushed for 33 yards on two carries and caught five passes for 46 yards.
"To come out the first series and go down the field like that was big," Henry said. "It established the whole concept of the game for the team. We knew we had to establish the run because they were not going to let us go deep with the pass so we had to run the football and make short passes."
Stokes returned the opening kickoff 37 yards and Garrard capped the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run.
The Pirates followed with an on-side kick that was recovered by Marcellus Harris.
Although that surprise play didn't result in any points on the drive, Stokes took Tech's next punt 71 yards for a touchdown and Henry scored on a 1-yard run with 4:26 left in the first, completing a 20-point opening period.
Garrard hit Derrick Collier with a 44-yard touchdown pass and Henry scored on another 1-yard run for a 34-0 lead in the second quarter.
Garrard completed 17 of 27 passes for 229 yards and rushed 33 yards on 13 carries.
"It was just a great game," Garrard said. "I couldn't have done any of it without my offensive line. It was a good game for me and for all of the team."
Tech rallied behind Kliff Kingsbury, who threw four touchdown passes, three in the second half, to cut the Pirates' big first-half bulge.
The Red Raiders finally got on the board with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Kingsbury to Derek Dorris with 1:39 left in the half.
"To get down 34-0 is a pretty big hole to climb out of," Kingsbury said. "I don't think they were a super defense. We just made them look good today."
The Raiders kept charging in the second half as Kingsbury hit Darrell Jones with a 65-yard touchdown pass with 13:11 to go in the third quarter to make it 34-14.
After East Carolina's Kevin Miller kicked field goals of 36 and 35 yards, Kingsbury threw a touchdown pass of 17 yards to Cole Roberts and a 3-yard pass to Dorris to make it 40-27.
"Whatever I did this week to avoid that happening, I didn't get it done," Tech coach Mike Leach said. "It wasn't a bowl game, it was just a game. We went out and got outplayed."
The last college bowl game played in the Astrodome was on Dec. 21, 1987, when Texas defeated Pittsburgh 32-27, ending a 28-year run for Bluebonnet Bowl.
Tech's bowl record dropped to 5-18-1, and the Red Raiders have lost five of their last six postseason games. East Carolina improved its bowl record to 7-2.
|Marcellus Harris wards off Texas Tech's Paul McClendon in the first quarter.|