GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- Defensive end Zach Slate returned an
interception seven yards for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth
quarter of East Carolina's 35-20 victory over Memphis on Saturday
Chris Johnson rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns to help
the Pirates (1-2, 1-1 Conference USA) shake off a slow start, rally
from a 13-point second-half deficit and snap a three-game losing
streak against Memphis.
Martin Hankins threw three touchdown passes in the first half
for the Tigers (1-2, 0-1), but it was the third of his five
interceptions that made the difference.
His pass to the right sideline was deflected by Slate at the 7,
and the backup defensive lineman grabbed it out of the air and
lumbered into the end zone to make it 21-20.
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 to eight.
East Carolina's Kasey Ross then returned Hankins' fifth
interception 77 yards for a score.
Memphis looked like it was 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.
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
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.
Hankins was 24-of-45 passing for 265 yards with three scores,
but was just 9-of-24 for 56 yards in the second half.