Reel­ing ECU blown out to end dif­fi­cult season

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY TOM SHANA­HAN

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.

ROBERT WIL­LETT rwil­[email protected]­sob­

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.

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