Tigers Fall to ECU

GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) - East Carolina coach Skip Holtz watched

other teams around the country, envious that their defenses were

scoring points, and wondered if his Pirates would ever do that.

They finally did - and just when they needed them most.

East Carolina returned two fourth-quarter interceptions for

touchdowns in its 35-20 victory over Memphis on Saturday night.

"I said, 'I'm tired of watching everybody else score on

defense. I've been waiting 13 weeks, 11 games last year and two

games this year, and we hadn't even gotten close to scoring on

defense yet,"' Holtz said he told his team. "It's about time

somebody picks up a fumble, makes a play or puts the ball in the

end zone."

Zach Slate and Kasey Ross got the message.

Slate, a backup defensive end, returned an interception seven

yards for the go-ahead touchdown. It was the Pirates' first

touchdown on an interception since 2003.

Then Ross, a defensive back, brought back another interception

77 yards for another TD in the final minutes for East Carolina

(1-2, 1-1 Conference USA).

"I was laughing the whole time, just so happy to be a part of

how great the defense played," Slate said.

Chris Johnson rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns to help

the Pirates rally from a 13-point second-half deficit by scoring

the final 28 points and snapping a three-game losing streak against

the Tigers.

Martin Hankins threw three touchdown passes in the first half

for Memphis (1-2, 0-1), but it was the third of his five

interceptions that put the Tigers behind for good.

"They helped us in the first half, and then we helped them in

the second half, and in the end we helped them more than they

helped us," Memphis coach Tommy West said.

Slate deflected Hankins' pass to the right sideline, then

grabbed it out of the air and lumbered into the end zone to put

East Carolina ahead 21-20.

"Not in a million years did I ever think I'd be in the end

zone," Slate said.

Linebacker Pierre Parker thwarted the Tigers' ensuing possession

by intercepting Hankins with about five minutes to play. James

Pinkney threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Aundrae Allison with 3:34

remaining to extend the lead.

Finally, in the closing minutes, Ross picked off a pass, zipping

and zagging across the field and into the end zone to provide the

final margin.

"Just didn't want to get tackled," Ross said, laughing.

Memphis looked to be in control at halftime. The Tigers gained

311 total yards in the first half and led 20-7 before the Pirates'

defense regrouped and Johnson asserted himself.

"I didn't say anything magical" at halftime, Holtz said. "I

challenged them."

Johnson had 65 yards in the second half, and his 5-yard

touchdown run midway through the third quarter pulled East Carolina

to within 20-14. Earlier, his 6-yard scoring run pulled the Pirates

to 14-7.

Pinkney finished 18-of-26 passing for 236 yards, and surpassed

the 6,000-yard passing mark for his career. His favorite target,

Allison, had nine catches for 124 yards and a touchdown a week

after UAB held him without a catch.

"I just had the mind-set this week that I was going to practice

hard, try to bounce back from a zero-catch game," Allison said.

Hankins was 24-of-45 passing for 265 yards with three scores in

the first half, but was just 9-of-24 for 56 yards and four

interceptions after halftime.

"We put the ball in places where it's not supposed to go,"

West said.

Earnest Williams had a 19-yard touchdown reception, Duke Calhoun

had a 23-yard scoring catch and Antonio McCoy had a 3-yard TD

reception in the first half.