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SUMMERS: Time to face man in the mirror

E Carolina-Houston Football
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Houston cornerback Isaiah Johnson (14) is out of bounds on his interception intended for East Carolina wide receiver Davon Grayson (85) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Houston. (Michael Wyke/Houston Chronicle via AP)

E Carolina-Houston Football
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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Monday, November 6, 2017

HOUSTON – When things go wrong, it can be difficult to see one's own role in the problem.

Without mirrors, human eyes can see only the outside world and the imperfect people around them. The pressure of expectation and the frustration that comes with not meeting it can cloud that vision.

Thousands of sets of eyes fixed squarely onto Houston wide receiver Steven Dunbar as he stomped down the field to the end zone on Saturday afternoon for one of his team's many long pass plays.

The view from behind the soundproof press box glass in TDECU Stadium illustrated another too-little, too-late East Carolina performance in a strange silent movie sort of way.

The corner perspective offered to visiting media was such that Dunbar's 75-yard touchdown reception and UH teammate Linell Bonner's 62-yard end zone charge two minutes later in the third quarter were nearly head-on.

The Cougars were on their way to a 52-27 romp. The 2-7 Pirates were on their way to giving up more than 50 points for the fifth time in nine games this season and on their way out of the bowl postseason.

Again.

Is it a lack of talent or is it poor coaching?

The eyes watching the game from an ECU perspective were asking that question once again Saturday night. When conflict arises, people want answers that are clear, cut and dried. But like in most cases, the real truth is somewhere in between, making it hard to know the best fix for this busted team.

The Houston blowout, in which the Pirates once again softened the blow with 10 fourth quarter points against mostly backups, was another chapter that provided examples of both sides of the argument.

Head coach Scottie Montgomery and his staff dialed up a near perfect flea-flicker on the first play from scrimmage on offense, but the ball was overthrown, squandering a sure touchdown.

Montgomery and Co. also opted to bring starting quarterback Thomas Sirk back into the game for one painfully predictable, positively crucial play in the red zone after he was benched for Gardner Minshew. The attempted QB rush went nowhere, most certainly not the end zone.

For another week, a team in desperate need of a sustained running game stuck with a plan of putting the ball into as many hands as it could find – nine different players registered carries – and once again none of them did much with their scant chances.

As has been the case all season, ECU defenders often started off in good position before being steered out of their lanes and left in the dust on big pass plays.

Montgomery also was left with no timeouts at the end of the first half, forcing a hurried and unsuccessful field goal try that was worsened by what was described as a kicker error in not knowing how much time was left to get the kick into the air.

Very much up in the air now is what to do next.

There is plenty of blame to be shared and not a big enough mirror to accommodate everyone associated with the team in need of spending some time in front of it.

Surely something must give at season's end. Consecutive home games against fellow American Athletic Conference bottom-dwellers Tulane and Cincinnati are anything but projected wins, and the season is now certain to end with a tall-odds trip to Memphis.

The Pirates are in no financial position to make any drastic leadership changes, and rebuilding a roster with players more befitting the team's current schemes takes more than the two years Montgomery and staff have been in town.

There are no quick fixes in college football, but also no place for perennial losing teams. The Pirates have lost 16 of their last 21 games and will now endure a third straight losing season, putting them dangerously close to the latter category.

No matter what changes are chosen to fix the team, the time for accountability is here, and avoiding the truth in the mirror is futile.

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

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