EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — East Carolina needed a missed field goal from UConn as time expired to prevent overtime, but the Pirates snapped a seven-game losing streak on Sunday with a 41-38 win over the Huskies.
Pirates quarterback Thomas Sirk, coming off a concussion that caused him to miss last week’s loss to Virginia Tech, completed 30 of 39 passes for 426 yards and three touchdowns, all to Davon Grayson.
UConn (1-2) drove to the Pirates 15 with six seconds left, but sophomore Michael Tarbutt’s kick went wide right on the final play.
“Really stressful there at the end, but that’s good,” said ECU coach Scottie Montgomery. “You have to get a tough one before you can get an easy one.”
Early on, it looked like it would be very easy for ECU in the conference opener for both teams.
East Carolina (1-3) found the end zone on its first three drives, and put up points the first five times it had the ball.
Sirk, a graduate transfer from Duke, connected with Grayson for 223 yards and scores of 17, 24 and 75 yards. The last strike, on the first play of the second half, gave the Pirates a 34-14 lead. The pair also teamed up on a 46-yard flea-flicker to set up another score.
“I think Sirk’s style showed today,” said Grayson. “He was loose. He was throwing shots in there. He did not think twice about nothing that he did and I think it showed.”
Each team racked up 596 yards of offense.
The Pirates led 41-21 after a 14-yard touchdown run from Hussein Howe.
But, the Huskies scored the next 17 points, cutting the deficit to three on a screen pass to running back Arkeel Newsome that went for 79 yards and a touchdown with just under six minutes left in the game.
Bryant Shirreffs passed for 406 yards and three TDs for UConn. Newsome caught eight balls for 170 yards and a score, becoming the first running back in program history to have more than 1,000 yards receiving.
UConn got the ball back with just over 2 ½ minutes left in the game and moved it down the field, converting on a third-and-22 and getting some help from a personal foul on linebacker Cannon Gibbs.
“Everyone did a great job,” said Tarbutt. “It came down to me not performing what I needed to perform.”
East Carolina: The Pirates last win came last Oct. 29 and it was also was against UConn. The last time the Pirates beat someone other than the Huskies was Sept. 10, 2016, a 33-30 win over North Carolina State.
UConn: The Huskies have not beaten an FBS team since a 20-9 win over Cincinnati last Oct. 9. The Huskies gave up an average of 536 yards in their first two games, including more than 406 yards in the air.
HE SAID IT
Sirk on snapping the losing streak. “What we’ve been saying is we needed one to take us to the top and rise from there. I was definitely a way to spark energy for our team moving forward.”
The Huskies got a glimpse of their future on Sunday. Redshirt freshman Mason Donaldson came in when top receiver Hergy Mayala sprained an ankle on the game’s second play. Donaldson’s first career catch went for a 45-yard touchdown up the right seam. He added a 12-yard touchdown catch in the third. True Freshman Kevin Mensah ran the ball 16 times for 107 yards.
East Carolina: The Pirates host No. 18 South Florida on Saturday.
UConn: The Huskies travel to Texas to take on SMU on Saturday.
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