East Carolina’s defense, long overshadowed by record-setting quarterback Marcus Crandell, took center stage Saturday at the Liberty Bowl.
The Pirate defense forced four turnovers and held Stanford to 211 yards total offense as East Carolina won, 19-13.
“The game was just the opposite of what everybody thought it would be,” East Carolina Coach Steve Logan said. “It was a very defensive game, and I’m just so proud East Carolina can win a game on defense when they have to.”
The defense entered the game giving up an average of 335 yards, while Stanford (7-4-1) had been rolling up 30 points and 396 yards a game. But the Pirates picked off two Mark Butterfield passes.
Butterfield was only 15 for 27 for 139 yards.
“Their defense stymied us just enough,” Stanford Coach Tyrone Willingham said. “We could not really get our offense on track, and I think that was the difference in the game.
“When you combine the early turnovers that we had, it just gave them a big enough cushion that we just couldn’t get back on top.”
Chad Holcomb kicked a Liberty Bowl-record four field goals for East Carolina (9-4).
His second field goal, a 41-yarder, followed a Butterfield fumble that was recovered by Travis Darden. Kwame Ellis blocked a 24-yard kick by Holcomb in the third quarter.
“I haven’t been trying to kick it as hard,” said Holcomb, who was 10 for 17 on field goals this season. “I’ve been working on following through straight and making it go straight even if I hit it bad.”
His fourth field goal, a 34-yarder, sealed the Pirates’ victory.
East Carolina never trailed in the game but didn’t put away Stanford until Crandell directed an 11-play drive that ate up 5:13 of the clock, setting up Holcomb with 1:15 to go.
“That made them have to go down for the score. They could’ve kicked a field goal otherwise. Their kicker [Eric Abrams] was like 16 for 18 coming in, so I’m sure he would’ve made it,” Holcomb said.
Damon Dunn gave Stanford one last chance by returning the kickoff to the Cardinal 47. But Brian Manning dropped Mark Butterfield’s fourth-and-one pass inside the Pirate 20 with 11 seconds left.
Willingham pointed out that he had predicted the game would be decided by defense even though Butterfield and Crandell each had thrown for more than 2,500 yards this season.
Crandell, a junior, already is East Carolina’s all-time passing and offensive leader.
East Carolina’s only touchdown came on Daren Hart’s 39-yard interception return in the first quarter. But Logan was happy that his defense and special teams outperformed the offense.
“I’m sure it’s the first in a long, long time to not score an offensive touchdown and win a game,” Logan said.
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A look at how the Pac-10 has fared in bowl games this year:
* Kansas 51, UCLA 30
* Iowa 38, Washington 18
* East Carolina 19, Stanford 13