Pirates boot BYU
By NATHAN SUMMERS
The Daily Reflector
Saturday, October 21, 2017
Step by step, foot by foot, East Carolina booted away a three-game losing streak on Saturday night.
The Pirates broke a 10-10 halftime tie with a rare second-half explosion that was matched every step of the way by a strong defense and a kicker who was ready to win a game one kick at a time.
Jake Verity's four consecutive field goals for ECU — including three that accounted for the only scoring in the third quarter by either team — were the cornerstone of the Pirates' 33-17 triumph over struggling BYU.
ECU (2-6) outscored the Cougars (1-7) by a count of 23-7 in the second half to claim the fifth victory of the Scottie Montgomery coaching era.
“It was really, really good to come out after halftime,” Montgomery said of his team, which amassed 413 yards of offense but lost starting quarterback Thomas Sirk (177 pass yards, 25 rush yds., TD) to an elbow injury in the second half. “I challenged the guys that if we could score, stop (on defense) and score, we would dominate the third and fourth quarters. That's exactly what our guys did.”
Montgomery lauded his team's ability to turn opportunities created by the defense into points scored by the offense.
With the score knotted at 10-10 entering the third quarter, Verity capped three consecutive drives by splitting the uprights, giving the Pirates a 19-10 lead heading into the fourth.
Despite his heavy involvement, Verity called it a team win.
“To be a kicker, you've got to stay as calm as you can, but the more I make the more I kind of get in my flow,” said Verity, who tied a school record with his four field goals. “The more opportunities I get, the happier I am.”
With the nine-point lead as padding, backup QB Gardner Minshew (121 pass yds.) put the game on ice with TD throws to Trevon Brown (three receptions, 74 yds.) and Quay Johnson (5-51).
Also paramount in the Pirate win was senior receiver Davon Grayson, who unleashed his third career 100-yard game with 10 grabs for 164 yards.
“We've worked so hard, so it feels good to see all those hard hours that we put into this start to show up,” Grayson said of the win. “This year so far, we haven't really put that one big game together, and I still don't think we have. There is still so much more that we can improve on, but I'm proud of how my team came out there and fought.”
On an inspired day for the ECU defense, redshirt freshman linebacker Aaron Ramseur tallied 12 tackles and had one stop for loss, while senior position-mate Jordan Williams made 10 tackles along with sophomore defensive back Devon Sutton. Fellow DBs Bobby Fulp and Colby Gore each had sacks, and junior linebacker Cannon Gibbs had the game's lone interception.
“Nowhere else in America can you be 1-6, show up and have the reception that we had here in Dowdy-Ficklen,” Montgomery said of the announced crowd of 38,835.
BYU passer Tanner Mangum ended up with 319 pass yards and a pair of TD passes, while receiver Aleva Hifo made nine receptions for 148.
The teams were deadlocked after a largely lackluster opening half characterized by a couple of turnovers and one that was overruled.
After fumbling away the first reception they made in the game, the Pirates appeared to be in an all-too-familiar pattern. BYU took the ball at the ECU 28 and made quick work of the defense by cashing in a five-play touchdown drive. Mangum zipped a 12-yard pass to his left to Micah Simon, who eluded tackling attempts by a pair of Pirates on his way to the end zone for a 7-0 Cougars lead.
ECU got a big boost late in the first when a reviewed call erased a fumble and gave Trevon Brown a 61-yard reception that set up the game-tying touchdown later in the opening quarter.
On the play, Sirk heaved a long pass down the right sideline that Brown snared, and then the receiver began dragging his defender toward the goal line, where he spun and on his way down lost the ball. The review showed Brown stepped out of bounds at the BYU 21, and from there ECU drove to the 1 and Sirk dove across the goal line to tie the game.
It was the third rush touchdown of the season for Sirk, who passed for 119 yards in the half.
“That was a huge play and thank goodness for instant replay,” Montgomery said of the overturned call. “That was a kid giving everything he had to get into the end zone. The fight after the contact, man, I was impressed by that.”
Neither offense managed 200 total yards in the first half, with ECU out-gaining the Cougars 195 yards to 153.
ECU took the lead early in the second period when Verity capped a 14-play drive with a 42-yard field goal. BYU canceled that as time expired in the half as Rhett Almond connected on a game-tying, 22-yard kick between the uprights.
Ramseur rang up a game-best nine tackles in the first two quarters alone.
Contact Nathan Summers at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.