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WOODWARD: Pirates dealing with crushing reality

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East Carolina receiver Trevon Brown kneels after an incompletion as North Carolina A&T's Richie Kittles celebrates during their game Sunday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Life is often about choices, except when there is only one option.

When East Carolina’s football players stormed out of the Murphy Center amid purple smoke on Saturday night at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium around 7:45 p.m. and were amped to kick off against North Carolina A&T, they were quickly told they had no choice but to return to their locker room because of lightning in the area. Fans also were required to vacate the bleachers.

The unfortunate scene set the tone for another hectic and humbling weekend for the Pirates.

The game eventually was postponed to Sunday, which is when the real humbling process set in for the Pirates.

A&T, a Football Championship Subdivision team that went undefeated last season but still was not expected to win at ECU, used a comeback in the second half to steal a 28-23 victory. Nationwide, it was viewed as another head-scratching blow dealt to ECU.

Regardless of the outcome, the Aggies were guaranteed to receive about $300,000 from ECU for coming to Greenville to play the game. These deals are set up in advance because the lower-level team is not supposed to win.

ECU is left no choice but to pay, figuratively and literally, for starting a second straight season with a loss to an FCS opponent.

In a celebration video posted on Twitter by N.C. A&T athletics Sunday night, first-year Aggies coach Sam Washington delivered the crushing line from the visiting locker room underneath the northside bleachers of ECU’s stadium that is undergoing a massive renovation project.

“One last thing, tell them to bring me my money,” Washington told his players in excitement as he flashed a we-just-pulled-a-shocker grin.

This one was a shocker, more than when 2016 FCS champion James Madison came to Greenville in 2017 and used a 410-70 advantage in rushing yards to run away with a 34-14 win.

Dating back to 1982, East Carolina had won 25 straight matchups against the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) until losing the last two.

But the Pirates also have no time to dwell on the upset loss, because they have consecutive games coming against the Atlantic Coast Conference, and ECU is now the underdog. It begins with a short week to prepare for hosting North Carolina on Saturday in the most important game of Scottie Montgomery’s coaching career.

Montgomery and his staff and players have to face the reality of the start to this season. They have no choice.

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

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