GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- James Pinkney threw for a career-high
391 yards with two touchdowns and ran for a score Saturday to lead
East Carolina past SMU 38-21.
Aundrae Allison finished with a career-best 13 catches for 138
yards and a TD in his return from an ankle injury that sidelined
him for the past two games, helping the Pirates (3-4, 2-2
Conference USA) close a five-game homestand with three wins.
Brandon Simmons also ran for two touchdowns while Davon Drew had a
TD catch for East Carolina.
Justin Willis threw three touchdown passes, two to Emmanuel
Sanders, for the Mustangs (4-4, 2-2), who fought back to tie it
after a 14-0 first-quarter deficit but never led.
It was a good way for East Carolina to rebound from last week's
31-10 loss to Tulsa, a performance that coach Skip Holtz called
their worst of the year. Pinkney threw for just 92 yards in that
game, but the senior rebounded in a big way against the Mustangs --
thanks in part to having his big-play receiving threat back in the
Pinkney completed 31 of 40 passes, setting a career-high for
completions while finishing with the third-highest single-game
passing yardage in school history. He also ran for 31 yards.
Allison, who had been out since injuring his ankle against West
Virginia on Sept. 23, returned just in time for East Carolina,
which plays four of its last five on the road and needs a strong
finish to reach their first bowl game under Holtz.
East Carolina scored touchdowns on its first two drives, then
answered a tying score from SMU with a long drive just before
halftime that put the Pirates ahead to stay at 21-14 on Simmons'
second 1-yard scoring run.
The Pirates pushed the lead to 31-14 on Pinkney's 10-yard keeper
midway through the fourth, then got a 30-yard Pinkney-to-Allison
touchdown to seal it.
The Mustangs didn't help themselves with several mistakes,
including an illegal blocking penalty that negated a 67-yard punt
return for a score by Blake Warren. Thomas Morstead also missed a
45-yard field goal in the third quarter that would have cut the
deficit to seven points with 4:27 left in the third.
The Pirates jumped ahead early, putting together a 93-yard
scoring drive on their first possession that ended with Simmons'
first 1-yard score. Then, after forcing a three-and-out by SMU,
East Carolina followed with a 79-yard drive that ended with
Pinkney's 17-yard touchdown pass to Drew for the 14-0 lead with
2:10 left in the period.
SMU rallied with two TD drives, each ending with TD passes from
Willis to Sanders, to tie the game at 14 with 5:34 left in the
first half. But the Pirates answered with a 14-play, 85-yard drive
and Simmons' score for the 21-14 lead with 29 seconds in the half.