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SUMMERS: Youth being served

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East Carolina's Hussein Howe, right, runs the ball during their game against Tulane on Nov. 11, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Monday, November 13, 2017

What began when the weather was still raging hot with early September sun continued into the first true November chill on Saturday night for East Carolina football.

But for the first time since the season began in that summer steam with an upset loss to James Madison, this eighth setback of a painful season hurt in a new and different sort of way. The two-win Pirates were making their own steam as they walked, shocked, off the field in the cold after a 31-24 overtime loss to Tulane.

The Green Wave's defensive front turned tsunami on the last of a dizzying amount of pivotal fourth down plays in the game, crashing into the ECU offensive line on fourth-and-goal from the 1 and washing over freshman running back Darius Pinnix to end the game just one step away from another shot at a third win.

That's right. A true freshman had the ball with the game on the line in overtime. And while the up-the-gut play call might be up for argument among postgame pundits, putting the game in the hands of a rookie was very likely the right call.

Within a few confused seconds, Tulane's on-field celebrations were audible as another small ECU crowd left in a rush. As the lingering smoke from another empty-sounding postgame cannon blast echoed across Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and the steam from another night lost for the ECU players drifted skyward with it, this team's true identity was revealed.

The problems are many, but the possible solutions are equally abundant.

While it is certain to be a final season of disappointment for senior players who were asked to invest themselves into two very different coaching philosophies during their careers, the inevitable influx of freshmen and sophomores into prominent roles has already changed the face of the team.

Whether or not they too get lost in transition is on them.

Smartly, dynamic sophomore tailback Hussein Howe and the powerful Pinnix have largely taken over the ECU rush the second half of the season, part of a crew of now 24 first-time starters for the Pirates.

They are the immediate future of ECU football.

Howe authored one of the only moments of athletic brilliance the team has seen in the run game this year. His hard right turn into the middle of the field and gravity-defying balance in breaking a tackle before collapsing into the end zone for the team's second touchdown was a picture in determination that bodes well for his future and maybe his team's also.

No matter what changes, or not, the offseason will bring to the team now adrift in a three-year bowl absence, the underclassmen steadily taking the reins will be asked to carry the team for a while.

In a sense, this rendition of Pirates was also lost in transfer.

Part of the Pirates' solution that is also part of their problem is the high level of short-term players brought in to fill specific needs but who are a costly gamble if they don't work out right away. Some, like linebacker Cannon Gibbs, have proven their worth right away. Others have proven to still be works in progress, possibly limiting the growth of younger, potentially long-term players.

Those four- and five-year players are the only chance the Pirates have in recreating themselves as a winner, so they might as well know what it's like to have the game in their hands. More players like Howe and Pinnix must play their way into prominence at their positions, and quickly.

The passage of time can seem cruelly quick in college sports. Even with youth on their side, players like Howe already are nearing the midway point in their careers.

The clock is always ticking and the ECU football team is in desperate need of a long-term identity.

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

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ECU

November 18, 2018

These three questions appeared in The Daily Reflector’s Pirate Gameday section previewing the Connecticut at East Carolina football game for ECU’s senior day. The favored Pirates cruised to a 55-21 win.

Here and the answers and more insight:

1. Which East Carolina running back gets the…

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November 17, 2018

Freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers dazzled again, ensuring that East Carolina’s football seniors had their time to celebrate during senior day at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

ECU got its expected and much-needed win Saturday night, stopping a five-game losing streak with a 55-21 victory over a…

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November 17, 2018

At 999 receiving yards for the season, East Carolina wide receiver Trevon Brown was looking for just one more to add consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to his college football resume.

The Pirates lined up midway through the second quarter on first-and-10 in their own territory. Holton Ahlers completed…

111818ECUFootball-8.jpg

November 17, 2018

These three questions appeared in The Daily Reflector’s Pirate Gameday section previewing the Connecticut at East Carolina football game for ECU’s senior day.

Check back after the 7 p.m. game (on CBS Sports Network) for the answers and more insight.

1. Which East Carolina running back…

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November 17, 2018

East Carolina and Connecticut are both starving for a football win, and one of the clubs is bound to achieve that feeling tonight inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Both teams are 0-6 in American Athletic Conference play. The Pirates (2-7 overall) have three games remaining and they are favored over the…

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November 17, 2018

Q: You are an emotional guy. Who else on the team gets really hyped and loud before games?

A: I definitely have to say D’Ante Smith and probably Matt Morgan on the offensive line. Matt is like my hype man. But as a whole (team), there really are guys across the board who get into it and get…

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November 16, 2018

East Carolina basketball was frigid from the field on Friday night at Georgia Tech, suffering a 79.54 setback to the Yellow Jackets after the Pirates shot a paltry 35.6 percent from the floor.

ECU (2-2) saw its record evened after a pathetic 2-for-17 showing from three-point range to go with a 10-…

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November 16, 2018

Southern Miss athletics director Jon Gilbert is potentially emerging as a lead candidate in East Carolina’s search for a new AD, although Southern Miss athletics spokesman Jack Duggan said Friday afternoon that he was not aware of Gilbert leaving for another job.

Multiple sources have…

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November 16, 2018

East Carolina’s basketball team scrimmaged Atlantic Coast Conference opponents Wake Forest and N.C. State during the preseason.

Tonight’s game at ACC member Georgia Tech will count toward the Pirates’ win-loss record.

ECU (2-1), which has one win ever against an ACC team when it…

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November 15, 2018

Coaches Scottie Montgomery and Randy Edsall sound similar at this point in the college football season.

Montgomery and the Pirates will be looking to stop a five-game losing streak when 1-9 Connecticut visits Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for a 7 p.m. kickoff Saturday. ECU is 2-7 this year, giving…

SMU UConn Football
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