GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCN/AP) The East Carolina Pirates are football bowl eligible for the first time since 2014 and have won the most games under head coach Mike Houston since he began running the program in the 2019 season.
Hired in December of 2018, Houston’s Pirates have struggled in the American Athletic Conference and have won just three games each in his first two seasons. But on Saturday, an away overtime win in Memphis doubled that total and pushed ECU’s record to 6-4, 4-2 AAC on the year.
In Houston’s first two seasons, the Pirates struggled in the AAC, usually only beating the University of Connecticut, who is now no longer in the conference for football.
But this season, ECU has taken down Tulane University, the University of South Florida, Temple University and now Memphis University, and are on a three-game win streak – in the AAC alone.
The Pirates also only dropped an OT game, that they led most of the game in, to the University of Houston by seven points, as well as a 4-point heartbreaker to the University of Central Florida. ECU is 11 points away from being a perfect 6-0 in the AAC.
On Saturday, the Pirates found themselves in a back-and-forth contest with the Tigers.
Memphis (5-5, 2-4 AAC) rallied to tie in regulation when kicker David Kemp made a 24-yard field goal as time ran out. The kick capped a 15-play, 69-yard drive that included two fourth-down conversions.
Before that, ECU running back Rahjai Harris scored from one yard out with 1:30 remaining to finish a 16-play, 75-yard drive that took nearly seven minutes and gave the Pirates a 23-20 lead.
In OT, RB Keaton Mitchell scored on a 24-yard run to put ECU up 30-23.
When Memphis scored on the following possession on a 20-plus yard run of its own, it decided to go for a two-point conversion, and the win, instead of a tie-attempt.
Memphis signal-caller Seth Henigan threw into a crowded end zone under pressure and the Pirate defense was able to bat it down and secure the win.
The sixth win of the season for ECU pushed it over the threshold for bowl eligibility, while the loss keeps Memphis on the outside looking in. To reach a bowl, a team must win a minimum of six games.
The Pirates will travel to the United States Naval Academy on Saturday before their regular-season finale against the nationally-ranked University of Cincinnati on Nov. 26.