Appears the interim director of Uptown Greenville has good knowledge of its operations. So let's look elsewhere, form a...

GAMEDAY: Slumping ECU faces Bearcats

1 of 2

East Carolina offensive lineman Christian Matau.

Tulsa Cincinnati Football

By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Tasked with trying to avoid their football team's first five-game losing streak in 13 years, the East Carolina Pirates could use a little luck tonight in Cincinnati, where they are winless for an even longer stretch into history.

ECU (2-4, 0-2 American Athletic Conference) and first-year head coach Scottie Montgomery have had time on their side after last Thursday's scheduled home game against Navy was flooded away by Hurricane Matthew, time to address four consecutive losses in which the Pirates have largely been their own undoing.

Similarly, Cincinnati (3-3, 0-3), under veteran coach Tommy Tuberville, enters the 7 p.m. kickoff in Nippert Stadium on the heels of a bye week and with the bitter taste of three losses in the Bearcats' last four outings. Their only win in that stretch was a close in-state triumph over Miami (Ohio).

“They've had some games very similar to ours, where turnovers within about a minute-fifteen- to 2-minute time frame changed the outcome of some of their games,” Montgomery said of the Bearcats, whose last outing was a 20-9 setback at fellow East Division opponent Connecticut.

Montgomery hopes ECU senior quarterback Philip Nelson will be at 100 percent tonight after a lackluster performance in the team's 38-22 loss at South Florida two Saturdays ago, a game in which Nelson was knocked out with an injury for the second time in two games.

In both outings, Nelson (team-high 1,841 pass yards, 11 touchdowns, four interceptions) was replaced by sophomore junior college transfer Gardner Minshew (412 yds., two TDs, three INTs). Both could see the field tonight, though Nelson was back in full swing by Sunday night's practice.

The ever-versatile senior James Summers (team-high 359 rush yds., three TDs, seven receptions for 61 yds.) has now supplanted junior Anthony Scott (62 rushes, 306 yds., two TDs) as the team's lead tailback, with junior Devin Anderson (25-108-1) as the third option.

The man powering the Pirates offense, even in tough times, is senior receiver Zay Jones (84 catches, 840 yds., three TDs), who is on pace to break some of all-time ECU leading receiver and former teammate Justin Hardy's school and NCAA records.

Jones seems certain to break Hardy's single-season ECU receptions record of 121 and at the season's midpoint is well ahead of the pace to best Hardy's 1,494 yards the same season. In order to match Hardy's NCAA-best 387 career catches, Jones needs 62 more in his last collegiate campaign.

Already second to Hardy on the career yards list, Jones still would need 1,168 more this season to match Hardy, now with the Atlanta Falcons. The Austin, Texas, native is also unlikely to touch Hardy's 35 career TD grabs, entering tonight's contest with 18.

Also, Jones enters the game leading the nation by far with an average of 14 catches per game, is the Football Bowl Subdivision's active leader in career receptions (325) and yards (3,373) and fell one catch shy of the NCAA single-game record with his 22 versus South Carolina earlier this season.

UC is ninth in total defense in the American with an average yield of 418.7 yards, but most of that is coming through the air, and the Bearcats will present some challenges to ECU's rush.

The Cincy defense starts squarely in the middle with senior linebacker and co-AAC tackles leader Eric Wilson, who has 65 stops to go with 5.5 tackles for loss and a team-best three sacks. The 'Cats' 4-3 defense also has seniors on the outside LB posts with Antonio Kinard (45 tackles, 2.5 TFLs) on the weakside and Mike Tyson (25 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, team-high three INTs) on the strongside.

Up front, senior defensive tackle Alex Pace sets the tone and boasts five TFLs, while sophomore end Kevin Mouhon has been a force with a team-high 7.5 TFLs to go with 20 tackles and a sack. A young secondary features lone senior Zach Edwards (31 tackles, sack), who has been boosted by junior cornerback Linden Stephens and his team-best two picks and five pass breakups.

The Pirates, who have sunk to 10th in total defense in the AAC and still have just one sack all season, will get a big shot in the arm today with the return of senior nose tackle Demetri McGill, who missed the last two games with an injury.

The two biggest difference-makers in the Pirates' front seven, however, are OLBs Dayon Pratt (33 tackles, four TFLs, sack, three PBs, team-high three forced fumbles) and Yiannis Bowden (19 tackles, team-high 5.5 TFLs, INT, two QB hurries, FF). In the middle, Jordan Williams and Terrell Richardson have led the charge with a team-best 35 stops apiece and a combined six TFLs, with senior starter Cam White adding 25 tackles.

Sophomore cornerback Corey Seargent is also back from injury today, taking some of the heat off freshman fellow corner Colby Gore. Junior free safety Travon Simmons continues to bolster the backfield with 28 stops and an interception, while junior Bobby Fulp and senior DaShawn Benton have 19 tackles each at strong safety and senior nickelback DaShaun Amos has 20.

Today's game pits the American's worst rush defense (ECU allows 195 ground yards per game) against the league's worst rush offense (UC averages 124.8 per game).

But the Bearcats are always strong on the pass, this year led mostly by sophomore Hayden Moore (1,100 pass yads., seven TDs, four INTs), although Tuberville revealed Thursday night that senior third-stringer and former highly-touted recruit Gunner Kiel is slated for his first start of the season.

Kiel has attempted 11 passes this year, freshman Ross Trail has 70 and Moore 159. Kiel was 30-of-47 for 270 yards, a touchdown and an INT against ECU last year.

The Bearcats have four principal playmakers in the pass game: senior Nate Cole (team-high 35 rec. for 364 yds., four TDs), junior Devin Gray (29-442-1) and sophomore Khalil Lewis (24-299-2) at receiver and junior tailback Mike Boone (16-166).

Senior Tion Green leads the feeble UC rush with 360 yards and two TDs on 76 carries.

The Pirates have lost consecutive last-second heartbreakers to Cincinnati. Last year, UC kicker Andrew Gantz drilled a 42-yard field goal as time expired to break a 16-16 tie in Greenville. The year before in Paul Brown Stadium, Gantz connected from 47 yards with 15 ticks left to derail a 46-45 ECU edge the Pirates had stolen with 1:02 left in the fourth quarter.

“If you get going early in the game, which we need to do and which we think we have a really good chance to do against Cincinnati, it'll be a good night for the Pirates,” Montgomery said. “If we can continue to grow like we've grown since the week before South Florida.”

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 or follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


August 17, 2019

In an exhibition match defined by defense, Jenna Dages scored the only goal for the East Carolina women’s soccer team to top VCU 1-0 on Friday night inside Johnson Stadium.

Dages’ goal came at the 45:34 mark. From there, goalie Meaghan Haley and ECU's defense helped to maintain the lead.…


August 17, 2019

Here are five East Carolina football players who have stepped up during preseason camp and will be looking to continue their momentum when the Pirates complete camp with a scrimmage Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium:

1. Xavier Smith, linebacker: Smith has kind of quietly morphed from a tight end…


August 16, 2019

East Carolina’s football practice Friday morning ended with center Branden Pena snapping to quarterback Holton Ahlers in the victory formation, and then the Pirates celebrated. Kicker Jake Verity also made a 57-yard field goal during a late-game sequence.

On the day before an important…


August 16, 2019

Jayda Hylton-Pelaia has played countless soccer matches in Canada and the United States, impressing plenty of observers with her fluid dribbling and defensive skills.

Her effect on American Athletic Conference coaches was felt Tuesday when she was named AAC preseason defensive player of the year,…

Jayda 6.jpg

August 15, 2019

Bruce Bivens is as vocal as ever on the East Carolina football defense, which can both excite and worry first-year Pirate coach Mike Houston.

Bivens' voice is important and it carries now in the middle of ECU's defense as he approaches his junior season and his second year as a starting inside…


August 15, 2019

UCLA transfer receiver Audie Omotosho was in shoulders pads Thursday as he continues to work toward being in full fear and available to compete in Saturday's scrimmage.

Omotosho officially joined the Pirates on Wednesday after not catching a pass for the Bruins from 2016-18. Houston gave insight on…


August 14, 2019

East Carolina first-year football coach Mike Houston does not like to say that one side "won" a practice, but a big rebound day by the Pirates' offensive line left an impression on him that the offense was superb Wednesday.

Quarterback play also was efficient and the running backs, including…


August 14, 2019

East Carolina football’s offense received a potential immediate boost Wednesday in the form of receiver Audie Omotosho, a coast-to-coast graduate transfer who is now a Pirate after not catching a pass at UCLA from 2016 to ’18.

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound receiver, a former four-star recruit…


August 13, 2019

East Carolina football coach Mike Houston said after practice Tuesday that freshman defensive lineman Traveon Freshwater will redshirt for the Pirates this season, per an NCAA ruling.

Freshwater was a linebacker and running back standout at Elizabeth City Northeastern High School the last four…

IMG_2588 (1).jpg

August 13, 2019

East Carolina's next basketball season will begin Nov. 5 against Virginia Military Institute in Minges Coliseum.

The Pirates will then travel to Navy (Nov. 8) and Appalachian State (Nov. 12), per their entire nonconference schedule that was released Tuesday. The American Athletic Conference portion…

172 stories in ECU. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 18
        Next Page»   Last Page»