CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Conference realignment has wrecked a number of longtime rivalries, and the one between Southern Mississippi and East Carolina is about to bite the dust.
Today, the Golden Eagles and Pirates will play their 31st and last consecutive game, 17th in Conference USA play. Many of those games have paired winning teams chasing postseason dreams, but that's not the case today at Greenville, N.C.
With the Eagles (0-5, 0-1) mired in an unthinkable 17-game losing streak, it's the outhouse visiting the penthouse. ECU (4-2, 2-1) is trying to stay in the East Division race after being upset last week by Tulane 36-33 in triple overtime.
It was a disheartening Saturday for ECU kicker Warren Harvey, who missed two crucial field goals - one that would have won it in regulation and the other in the third overtime. That allowed Tulane's Cairos Santos, one of America's best kickers, to hit his fifth field goal in six attempts.
The Pirates outgained the Green Wave 543-310, with Shane Carden throwing for a school-record 480 yards. Justin Hardy also set school records with his 17 receptions for 230 yards.
But Carden suffered a monumental "pick-six," a 99-yard return by Derrick Strozier that gave Tulane a 16-6 lead late in the third quarter.
"The biggest thing we told him is that we believe in him," coach Ruffin McNeil said of Harvey. "Warren has earned his way here. When you have earned and nothing has been given, he's not afraid of it. He has a belief in faith and God. He's one of our top students - period - here at East Carolina."
Tulane (5-2, 3-0) is tied with Rice (4-2, 3-0) for the West Division lead.
This is the lightest schedule of the year in C-USA. North Texas visits Louisiana Tech in the only other league game, with Rice talking on New Mexico State in Las Cruces.
Marshall (4-2, 2-0) is preparing for its Thursday night game against Middle Tennessee (3-4, 1-2).
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or by e-mail at dougsm...@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.