GREENVILLE, N.C. -- Dwayne Harris returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown and added two touchdown catches to help East Carolina beat winless Rice 49-13 on Saturday.
Harris matched his career-high with 128 yards receiving for the Pirates (4-3, 3-1 Conference USA), while Rob Kass -- a former starting quarterback who moved to tight end -- had his first career scoring catch to help East Carolina to a relatively stress-free win. The Pirates led 21-3 by midway through the second quarter and never let the Owls (0-7, 0-3) make it closer than a two-possession game before blowing it open late.
It was another big performance from Harris, a junior receiver who has become the Pirates' big-play threat. Last week, he had a 77-yard kickoff return for a score and a rushing touchdown in a loss at SMU, and has scored seven touchdowns in the past four games.
He gave East Carolina the early lead when he caught a short pass from Patrick Pinkney on the right side and raced in from 16 yards out on the game's first possession. Later, after Rice showed some life with an 80-yard touchdown pass from Nick Fanuzzi to Toren Dixon, Harris broke free near midfield on the ensuing kickoff and -- freed by blocks from Brandon Jackson and Darryl Reynolds -- raced down the right sideline all the way to the end zone for a 28-10 lead shortly before halftime.
Harris added a third score with about 11 minutes left and the outcome no longer in doubt, taking a short screen pass from Pinkney and running in untouched for a 7-yard touchdown that made it 42-13.
Pinkney was 18-for-26 for 231 yards with two interceptions, though one came when he was hit while throwing -- and the Pirates forced a fumble on the return to get the ball right back and set up Kass' 2-yard scoring catch late in the first quarter.
That's not to say everything went great for the Pirates. Jackson struggled to consistently to shoulder the rushing load for the Pirates after Dominique Lindsay went down with a left ankle injury. Lindsay had run for 78 yards on 12 carries before going down on a pass play in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
Fanuzzi threw for 231 yards to lead Rice, which closed to within 28-13 and had the ball to start the fourth quarter before Dustin Lineback made a leaping interception near midfield and returned the ball to the Owls 20-yard line.
That's when the Pirates -- after watching Jackson repeatedly get stuffed for lost yardage -- turned to Giavanni Ruffin, who ran three straight times before punching it in from 7 yards out for a 35-13 lead with about 13 minutes left.