GREENVILLE, N.C. — The margin of East Carolina’s 34-6 win over Tulane on Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium wasn’t really much of a surprise.
The Green Wave’s bend-but-don’t break defense, however, kept Tulane within shouting distance for much of the game, and behind that defense were a few good numbers.
ECU outgained the Green Wave 497 yards to 325, but only 139 of the Pirates’ yards came on the ground.
Tulane trailed by only 14 points to the heavily favored hosts until midway through the fourth quarter.
And senior safety Sam Scofield had a career game, getting in on a season-high 17 tackles — including eight solos and one for a loss. Among them were two open-field solos that clearly prevented ECU touchdowns.
Nico Marley was in on 11 tackles including five solos and two for losses for the Green Wave, which finished with five tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.
“I thought our defense played pretty well early in the game, but they got a little worn down,” Green Wave coach Curtis Johnson said. “We did some doubling on (Justin Hardy, ECU’s record-breaking receiver), but when you do that it just opens up other guys and the run game. You can’t stop a player who’s that good.
“But we’re a little banged up, and the defense hung in there. They played pretty decent against the run. It wasn’t just big play after big play, and (ECU) has one of the better offenses in college football. They put 70 up on North Carolina right up the road, so for what we did, I thought it was good. And we have a lot of guys who will be back for two more years. Scofield is one of our leaders. He’s very smart, he gets the checks and the calls and he’s an incredible tackler.”
Scofield, who was second-team Academic All-American last season and is on track to make the team again, stopped ECU’s Breon Allen for a 1-yard loss to the Tulane 2 on fourth down in the final minute of the first half.
And on the Pirates’ first play of the second half, he managed to hang on to Cam Worthy’s foot at the Green Wave 49 to prevent a 20-yard completion from turning into a 69-yard touchdown.
“They’re a really explosive team,” Scofield said. “We knew they were going to catch passes, but we just have to get them down. On that fourth-down play, we had seen it on film. It’s either a quarterback sneak or a zone play. I knew I couldn’t stop the quarterback sneak, so I just veered outside expecting the running back to veer outside.
“I thought we played a pretty good game defensively, but I thought some guys might have gotten down. It was disappointing the way it ended. ... I remember our freshman year when we played Hardy. He’s going to play on Sundays. We just needed to get him down after he caught the ball.”
Nickerson, a redshirt freshman, had his season high in tackles with eight, including six solos.
“I think we played a good game,” Nickerson said. “We just had a few mistakes. We gave Hardy a lot of attention and tried to contain him.
“I think we’re improving on starting the game and doing a better job of getting some three-and-outs to get the offense the ball back.”