4 games left, ECU may be play­ing for coach’s job

The Herald Sun - - Sports - BY TOM SHANA­HAN Cor­re­spon­dent L,KKGREENVILLE

East Carolina’s 59-41 loss last week to Mem­phis left the Pi­rates four wins shy of bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity with four to play. Nor­mally, a 2-6 record doesn’t prompt bowl ques­tions.

But a year ago coach Scot­tie Mont­gomery promised the post-sea­son de­spite a 70-13 loss to Mem­phis in the sea­son fi­nale.

The Pi­rates, win­less in AAC play at 0-5, face four teams with a com­bined 19-16 record: Satur­day, 4 p.m. at Tu­lane (4-5) fol­lowed by Con­necti­cut (1-8), at Cincin­nati (8-1) and at N.C. State (6-2).

Four ob­ser­va­tions en­ter­ing the stretch:

THE FI­NAL FOUR

Mont­gomery’s hasn’t tried to walk-back his pre­dic­tion. The for­mer Duke of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor needs two wins to top 3-9 records his first two sea­sons in Greenville.

“Lis­ten, all my chips are on this foot­ball team,” he said. “Those young men in the locker room, I love them. We’ve got to play well. One thing we have to re­al­ize is things change slowly and then sud­denly.

“I told our team, and I used one of our coaches as ex­am­ple, one day you wake up with a gray hair in your beard and then an­other. Sud­denly you wake up and you have a beard full of gray hair. We have to re­group and get our first con­fer­ence win. And then we’ll go from there.”

PLAY­ING FOR COACH’S JOB

From true fresh­man quar­ter­back Holton Ah­lers to se­nior right tackle Gar­rett McGhin, the Pi­rates are play­ing for Mont­gomery’s job — and more.

McGhin: “We don’t like los­ing. We’re not play­ing just to save some­body’s job. This is at­tached to my name. When I leave East Carolina I want wins with my name. I’m not wor­ried about Coach Mo. He’s a grown man and will take care of his fam­ily re­gard­less. We want to get East Carolina back to play­ing Pi­rate foot­ball. He’s a great coach. We’ve just got to do the lit­tle things and ex­e­cute.”

Ah­lers: “There isn’t an­other coach I’d like to have coach­ing me. We be­lieve in him; he be­lieves in us. We want to win for him be­cause he de­serves it.

THE AD QUES­TION

Mont­gomery lost a foot­ball coach’s great­est ally, the ath­letic direc­tor that hired him, when Jeff Com­pher was fired in March. A new A.D. isn’t ex­pected to be in place un­til af­ter sea­son, so it is hard to know how he or she will eval­u­ate him.

Will the fi­nal record as well as dwin­dling at­ten­dance weigh heav­i­est? What about sta­tis­ti­cal im­prove­ments of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively? There also is im­proved team chem­istry from ros­ter a year ago that that quit down the stretch. Will Mont­gomery’s re­cruit­ing coup, keep­ing Ah­lers home, be rec­og­nized?

“Well, it’s hard to say whether it’s a pos­i­tive or a neg­a­tive when you’re just go­ing to work,” Mont­gomery said. “Some of the things that we wanted to get done, a train­ing ta­ble, we weren’t able to get those done the way that we would have liked and it’s hope­fully some­thing that will come here in the fu­ture. I can’t nec­es­sar­ily say if it’s been a neg­a­tive or a pos­i­tive.”

For­mer ECU ath­letic direc­tor Dave Hart has been serv­ing as spe­cial ad­viser for ath­let­ics to Chan­cel­lor Ce­cil Sta­ton. He was ECU’s A.D. from 1987 to 1995 be­fore his ath­letic po­si­tions at Flor­ida State, Alabama and Ten­nessee.

“I will say that hav­ing Dave Hart has re­ally shed a light on some of the things we need to grow in,” Mont­gomery said. “Hav­ing that hood raised and some hon­esty and ev­ery­thing, not only in the pro­gram, but out­side of the pro­gram and ev­ery­thing con­nected to it. Hav­ing him has been very ben­e­fi­cial to us.”

LENGTHY WALK-ON

Tyler Snead, a true fresh­man slot re­ceiver from Millbrook High, must have walked from Raleigh to Greenville to earn his walk-on ros­ter spot.

Snead, a 5-foot-7, 166pounder, isn’t in the ECU me­dia guide and wasn’t added to the ECUPi­rates.com on­line ros­ter un­til af­ter the Mem­phis game. But he caught five balls for 50 yards, in­clud­ing break­ing a tackle at the 5-yard line to fin­ish a 13-yard touch­down pass from Ah­lers on fourth-and-goal from the 13.

“He catches the ball, he’s elec­tric and he works hard,” Ah­lers said. “I trust him and he’s go­ing to do a lot more.”

Mont­gomery liked Snead’s work in prac­tice and gave him added work with the play­ing units dur­ing the bye week. ECU can pre­serve his red­shirt sea­son by lim­it­ing him to only three more games.

THE FOR­MER DUKE OF­FEN­SIVE CO­OR­DI­NA­TOR NEEDS TWO WINS TO TOP 3-9 RECORDS HIS FIRST TWO SEA­SONS IN GREENVILLE.

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