Dominique Davis gave East Carolina one of the best wins of the new college football weekend, and perhaps changed the perception this could be a rebuilding year for the Pirates.
When Davis hit Justin Jones in the end zone to complete the improbable Hail Mary and give East Carolina the 51-49 win over Tulsa, the Pirates served notice they are not quite ready to relinquish their Conference USA throne. New coach Ruffin McNeill got the win in his debut, even though he probably had his heart in his throat for the entire game watching the see-saw battle between conference foes.
It was Davis who manned the offense after winning a fierce quarterback competition that went down to the wire. McNeill never named his starter, so we had to wait until kickoff to see it was Davis who would get the nod. Davis, remember, led Boston College to the ACC championship game in 2008 before transferring to a junior college and then deciding on East Carolina and Skip Holtz.
When Holtz left, athletic director Terry Holland wanted to hire a major college head coach. It was Holtz who led East Carolina to four straight bowl appearances and two consecutive C-USA championships. But Holland eventually decided it was the East Carolina alum McNeill who would be the best fit. When he arrived, he opened up the quarterback competition.
Bringing with him the Texas Tech style air-raid offense he came to know so well as an assistant there, McNeill needed somebody to be able to run a complicated offense, and mobility does not hurt, either. Davis had to adjust to the new style of offense, but brings an added dimension with his mobility.
But the Pirates were missing more. Nine starters were gone from the defense, including the entire front seven, and five from the offense. While McNeill certainly is not going to be pleased with the retooled defense, it is hard to argue about the results Sunday afternoon. Jones, a 6-foot-8, 252-pound redshirt freshman, came to East Carolina as a tight end but was moved to inside receiver to take advantage of his size and speed. That size paid off in a big way at the end of the game, his first as a college player.
Davis to Jones is sure to live on in East Carolina lore. Now we will wait to find out what other surprises East Carolina has in store for us this season.