Reeling ECU blown out to end difficult season
East Carolina thought it was a good idea to schedule a 12th game at N.C. State, but that was two months ago. Long before its tattered program arrived without a head coach and starting quarterback – not to mention an athletics director.
The Wolfpack (9-3) exploited the Pirates’ flaws to roll over ECU 58-3 Saturday afternoon at Carter-Finley Stadium.
ECU coach Scottie Montgomery was dismissed two days before the game with a threeyear record of 9-26 overall and 4-20 in American Athletic Conference play.
“The timing of it all was one of most disappointing things,” said linebacker Cannon Gibbs, a senior team captain. “We worked hard in practice and then your coach finds out he’s fired during practice.
“It’s pretty bitter, man. But that’s life. You’re going to have things thrown at you in life. I hate it for Coach Mo. I love that guy. I thought we were prepared, but we didn’t execute.”
True freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers was ruled out before kickoff. He had suffered injuries to his knee and non-throwing hand when he left last week’s Cincinnati loss in the third quarter.
Redshirt sophomore Reid Herring of Millbrook High, who started the first five games, was 8-of-22 passing for 69 yards with one interception before he was knocked out of the contest with a shoulder injury on a sack in the third quarter.
“I thought he threw some nice balls, but we had too many drops,” interim coach David Blackwell said. “Defensively couldn’t get off the field. Our defense wore down.”
Redshirt freshman Kingsley Ifeldi and true freshman walk-on Caiden Norman of Clayton’s Cleveland High finished. All three QBs played behind an injury-riddled line down to its third-team center and third-team guard.
ECU (3-9) was healthier when the game was scheduled to replace contests both schools had canceled due to Hurricane Florence.
At the time, ECU was 2-2, having rebounded from a demoralizing season-opening loss to N.C. A&T. The Pirates sandwiched wins over North Carolina and Old Dominion around an encouraging defensive performance in a 20-13 loss at South Florida.
Montgomery spoke enthusiastically about facing another Power 5 foe, but four days later the season unraveled. ECU lost 49-6 at Temple. The only scores were field goals, marking the first time the Pirates failed to score a touchdown since 2012 at North Carolina.
They almost went one worse at N.C. State, but they extended their streak without being shut out to 266 games. Junior Jake Verity hit a 46-yard field goal as time expired.
“Obviously you’d like to avoid a shutout, but I didn’t know about the streak,” Blackwell said. “I was only thinking about Jake. It was within his range. Why not give one of the best kickers in the country an opportunity?”
N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley was a bad matchup for the Pirates. He threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns – by halftime. He finished with 409 yards when he left early in the fourth quarter.
However, Finley was sacked by senior Nate Harvey. His sack and a half-tackle for a loss added up 1.5 tackles for loss for the day to push his season total to 25 to lead the nation and set an AAC record. He is second in the nation in sacks with 14.5, one-half behind the national lead and the ECU record.
ECU also preserved true freshman walk-on wide receiver Tyler Snead’s redshirt. The Millbrook alum reached the limit to the new rule last week with four games, having caught 15 balls for 236 yards and four TDs.
East Carolina’s Dalton Montgomery (76) and Jaison Fournet leave the field after their demoralizing 58-3 loss to N.C. State on Saturday in Raleigh.