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Pirates fall further in AAC East

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East Carolina quarterback Thomas Sirk, left, is brought down by Temple's Jullian Taylor for a sack on Saturday in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, October 8, 2017

An optimistic view of East Carolina football after it won 41-38 at Connecticut on Sept. 24 to begin American Athletic Conference play was that the Pirates might recover from their nonconference start and be a factor in the league into October.

Two games later, ECU is back near the bottom of the AAC East standings and facing an uphill battle at 1-5 overall and 1-2 in the conference halfway through the season. The Pirates have already played three of their five AAC East counterparts — the two contests that remain in that regard are at 25th-ranked Central Florida and at home against Cincinnati.

Temple came into Saturday’s game in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium at 0-2 in the American and as a 2.5-point favorite over ECU, but the visitors used a dominant 24-0 advantage in the second quarter to fuel a 34-10 win that left East Carolina still searching for answers.

ECU has been outscored 95-41 since the win over UConn.

“It’s obviously hard when you go down in conference play like we did today, but that doesn’t mean that we stop trying to accomplish what we are trying to moving forward,” starting quarterback Thomas Sirk said. “That starts next week at Central Florida and getting a (potential) huge win on the road, with a tough opponent on the road.”

Saturday’s loss, which came a week after league favorite South Florida beat the Pirates 61-31 in Greenville, dropped East Carolina to a 10-17 conference record in its three-and-a-half seasons in the American. That spans the final two years of the Ruffin McNeill coaching era (8-8 in AAC) and the first two seasons under Scottie Montgomery (2-9).

“The biggest deal is you have the event plus the response equals the outcome,” Montgomery said when asked about the Temple loss possibly being a big setback. “The event is we lost, the response will happen (today) and the outcome we’ll see (next) Saturday and moving forward. It could be a setback if we don’t go back out and play and practice the way we need to play, or it could be a step up for the next few games.”

ECU still leads the all-time series against Temple 8-7, but the Owls have won the last four meetings. The Pirates’ last victory in the series was a 32-22 victory in 1995 in Greenville.

A theme during postgame interviews was that the Pirates didn’t play disciplined football, which included Montgomery pointing out that his squad had more penalty yards (eight for 96 yards) than rushing (22 for 34 yards).

The Owls taking control during the middle quarters and finishing off a runaway victory led to a final score that meant all four of East Carolina’s losses this year have been by at least 20 points.

“We have to get better play by guys, all around,” senior receiver Jimmy Williams said. “On defense, offense and special teams, we weren’t disciplined enough and that’s what happened today. We weren’t disciplined at all and you could see it throughout the game at every position.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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