East Carolina became bowl eligible in a game that has become typical of the Pirates this season -- a good ol' shootout.
Dominique Davis threw for 331 yards and five touchdowns, and East Carolina rallied for the 54-42 win over UAB on Thursday night in front of a very sparse crowd in Birmingham.
The Pirates (6-4) are bowl eligible for the fifth straight season, and you have to give them much credit for making it this far. Facing a huge rebuilding project and playing for a new coach in Ruffin McNeill, the Pirates may not have looked pretty this season, but they have made it into a bowl.
Against UAB, East Carolina was able to overcome the embarrassment of giving up 76 points the week before to Navy and snap a two-game losing streak. As usual, Davis starred for the Pirates. The game turned in the fourth quarter, when the Pirates outscored the Blazers 27-7. Davis gave East Carolina a 48-42 lead with 5:48 to go after throwing an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Williams, and running in the two-point conversion.
“This was a big win, a character win,”McNeill said afterward. “We had two tough losses, really four. It's been a very physical year, and defensively we lost three guys to season-ending injuries. With our kids, the next guy picks up the flag.”
Davis, meanwhile, is turning in a season worthy of Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Davis now has 31 touchdown passes and 3,077 yards this season, setting the East Carolina single-season record for both. Jeff Blake held both previous marks -- 28 touchdown passes and 3,073 yards in 1991. Davis and Blake are the only two quarterbacks in school history to throw for more than 3,000 yards.
Overall this year, East Carolina has scored 382 points, 21 shy of the school-record 403 set by the 2007 team.
The Pirates are 5-1 in league play and has an outside shot at the East Division. They need to win out and have UCF (7-2, 5-0) lose two of its final three to win the division. UCF hosts Southern Miss on Saturday. Conference USA now has five teams that are bowl eligible.