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Sirk back in the saddle

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East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery directs from the sideline during his team's home game Saturday against Virginia Tech. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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BY NATHAN SUMMERS
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Thomas Sirk knows better than anyone the risks of coming back too soon from injury, so he was not upset when he was held out of East Carolina’s home loss to Virginia Tech last week.

The former Duke passer once dealt with multiple Achilles’ tendon injuries and re-injuries, and undoubtedly they shaped his perception about being held on the bench for the Pirates last week following a concussion.

“I thought it was great for me to just take a step back last week and recover my body,” Sirk said. “Coming off what could have been a concussion (at West Virginia) and me going through the protocol and making sure I passed everything, just made a decision that I didn’t want to jump in there too soon and maybe be out three or four games or maybe the rest of the season, so I think it was a smart move.”

Like most people on and around the team, Sirk said the schedule change that nixed the bye this week and instead sends the Pirates to Connecticut is a major blessing for a team in need of a win.

Second-year head coach Scottie Montgomery said after Tuesday’s practice that Sirk, who he coached when he was the offensive coordinator at Duke, was showing true signs of being game-ready this week, often tucking and running run/pass option plays instead of throwing them to avoid contact.

“I think we made the correct decision in holding him and he looked a lot better (Tuesday),” the head coach said of Sirk, who is slated to make his second ECU start on Sunday.

“I don’t think I’ve been at a place with more little things to change at the quarterback position — some injuries, some dings, some shoulders and different things,” Montgomery said of his passers, who also faced concussion and other injury concerns throughout last season. “We want consistency. The best thing for our team is to add some run game, add the passing game and keep that guy upright. The less he gets hit the better.”

ECU offensive coordinator Tony Petersen said he accepts that injuries often dictate the use of personnel, and said they are affecting consistency on offense, with backup QB Garnder Minshew forced to make his second start against the Hokies.

“He looked good last week but we just felt like it wasn’t a situation where he was quite ready where we wanted to put him in,” Petersen said of his primary passer. “He had a good practice last week and he looked good tonight.”

As for having a dual-threat quarterback like Sirk as opposed to a less-mobile one like Minshew, Petersen said, “(Opposing defenses) have got to now cover everything, so it changes us a little bit but it changes them a lot.”

On the field Tuesday evening, the focus for the offense was first downs — how to get more of them and get more out of them.

Montgomery lamented the fact that not doing more with the opening play of each set of downs has been a substantial roadblock this season.

“I don’t think we’re even close to where we can be with the talent that we have outside, and then with the ability to run and throw at quarterback, and our backs, we’ve got to get them going better and give them some better looks,” Montgomery said, adding that another measure of success is getting to manageable, short-yardage third downs.

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

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