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Owls swoop for 34-10 win

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East Carolina safety Korrin Wiggins hits the ground after missing an interception during Saturday's game against Temple at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Oct. 7, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By NATHAN SUMMERS
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, October 7, 2017

More missed chances, penalties and incomplete efforts cost East Carolina a chance at redefining its season on Saturday afternoon in a 34-10 loss to previously struggling Temple.

A momentary 3-0 lead vanished quickly as Temple cannonballed the Pirates (1-5, 1-2 American Athletic Conference) for 24 straight points to close the first half and then fended off a brief and mostly toothless ECU rally attempt in the second.

The Pirates have now been outscored 85-20 in the second quarter this season, an epidemic that once again spelled one of the greatest differences between the two teams.

A week after some encouraging moments for the Pirate offense in a 61-31 loss to South Florida, starting quarterback Thomas Sirk and his unit choked out 160 yards in the first half against the Owls (3-3, 1-2) and 287 overall.

The defense, meanwhile, gave the Owls the day they needed, allowing them to eclipse season-highs in total yards (523), rushing yards (179), passing yards (344) and points.

“That's not something I can speak to as far as a concern for morale, but I know what that locker room was just like,” ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery said of his team, now 4-14 in his tenure. “The locker room was an accountable locker room where the captains of the team spoke in detail to players about what players needed to do. I don't think I've been a part of a locker room like that.”

The Pirates posted just a single touchdown in the second half, an 11-yard Sirk toss to senior Quay Johnson that was matched late in the third quarter by a 32-yard pass by Temple's Logan Marshi to a wide-open Isaiah Wright that restored the Owls' three-touchdown lead for good.

ECU was 3-of-14 on third down compared with Temple's 14-for-20 effort.

After the game, the Pirates' 14th loss in their last 16 outings, players echoed Montgomery's sentiment, saying it is time for players to look at one another.

“There's not enough people holding each other accountable here offensively, defensively in any situation” Sirk said. “You shouldn't be afraid as an offensive player to hold a defensive player accountable. We're going to continue to grow in that area. Effort is one thing that you can always give your best of.”

Jimmy Williams agreed, on one hand saying Temple showed a continued resilience in the game, and on the other lamenting his team's inability to respond to similar adversity.

“They were confident. They didn't flinch,” Williams said of the Owls. “They showed us what we saw on film. They didn't do anything different. We just didn't execute.”

Sirk tossed for a pedestrian 253 yards with a TD and an interception. Senior Williams bounced back from an early-season illness with a game-best 110 yards on five receptions, but the sleepwalking run game accounted for just 34 yards.

Making his first-career start in place of senior leading tackler Jordan Williams, redsirt freshman linebacker Aaron Ramseur made 11 tackles along with safety Korrin Wiggins. Ramseur also had an interception and Jordan Williams forced a fumble, though the Pirates had no sacks and one tackle for loss.

Marchi, meanwhile, compiled 321 yards passing and a couple of TDs, while David Hood ran up 106 ground yards with a score. Wright made six catches for 91 yards.

The Pirates committed eight penalties for 96 yards.

“What I brought to this program, the foundation, we talked about discipline and conditioning, and we didn't have that today,” Montgomery said. “The next football team we put on the field will be more disciplined. I don't know who it may be or who it may not be. We're going put guys on the field that remind me of what I want our guys to be.”

ECU's second-quarter misery reached a new low as the Pirates watched 24 unanswered points blow past them following a field goal and a brief 3-0 edge to begin the game.

The Owls cashed in on their chances, going 6-for-9 on third downs in the first half while the Pirates were a miserable 0-for-7. An Owls offense that ranked dead last in the American entering the game managed 327 yards (the Owls averaged 235 per game coming in) in those quarters while an ECU offense that did not to play numerous usual contributors had 160.

That included 134 pass yards from Sirk, but the ECU grad transfer telegraphed a throw over the middle in the second quarter that was picked off in Pirate territory to set up a key Owls touchdown.

Hood capped a five-play scoring drive with a 2-yard TD to give his team a 17-3 edge with 4:34 left in the first half.

Temple was not done before halftime either. The Owls forced a quick three-and-out and the visiting offense staged another scoring drive, this one another five-play jaunt that included Marchi's 45-yard connection with Randle Jones. Rob Ritrovato finished the drive with a 2-yard plunge for a 24-3 lead at the intermission.

ECU kicker Jake Verity connected from 25 yards on the Pirates' first possession, but the lead was nullified by Temple kicker Aaron Boumerhi's 29-yard boot, and the Owls moved into the lead, 10-3, on its next drive when Marchi zipped a TD pass to Adonis Jennings from the 5.

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

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