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Montgomery: We're climbing in AAC

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East Carolina's Deondre Farrier celebrates after his touchdown during their game against Cincinnati on Nov. 18, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Monday, November 20, 2017

Scottie Montgomery had a pleasant exchange with a supportive fan following East Carolina’s 48-20 win against Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon, and the second-year head coach understandably embraced the moment fully.

His ECU team had just matched last season’s win total of three in the twilight of another difficult season. But much like the fan, Montgomery believes a turnaround is in the works for the 3-8 Pirates (2-5 American Athletic Conference).

“I try not to hear too much good and too much bad and try to stay even-keeled, but I’m human and it always feels good for people to take time out of their day to say they know what we’re trying to get accomplished,” Montgomery said at Monday’s weekly news conference in advance of Saturday’s season finale at Memphis. “The biggest thing I like is when people like him see our kids in public, see what they’re doing, seeing how they’re trying or hearing a professor say this or that, and then to see those same kids he’s talking about out on the field doing well, that always feels good.”

Also contributing to Montgomery’s good feeling Monday was his team’s convincing win against the Bearcats in which both sides of the ball dominated for almost the entire 60 minutes.

Combined with the Pirates’ last-second cliffhanger win at Connecticut and their near miss in overtime against Tulane two weeks ago, Montgomery believes the tides are turning for his team in the American. The coach said this weekend’s clash against the No. 17 Tigers, whose lone loss came to unbeaten No. 13 Central Florida, is a wanted and needed engagement.

“We’ve got to go out and play against one of the best teams in our conference, if not the best team in our conference and get a chance to see where we are,” Montgomery said. “I think we’re climbing in the conference now. With the people that we’re playing against, I can see our level of play catching up and getting to the level of some of our other conference opponents. It’s good that we have this test at the end of the year.”

Finale or finished

It remained unclear as the team’s final game week of the season began whether or not some key senior players would be able to play in their career finales.

Wide receiver Davon Grayson had limited running activity Sunday night after being stuck on the sideline for senior day with a tweaked back and hip. Senior right tackle Brandon Smith, who was injured against Cincinnati, did not practice at all, according to Montgomery.

The coach also noted that senior receiver Jimmy Williams, who has multiple injuries but has played a big role in the last two games, likely will not practice tonight, though he is expected to play against the Tigers on Saturday.

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

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