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WOODWARD: Pirates rally, roar for their coach

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East Carolina football coach Scottie Montgomery points from the sideline on Saturday during a 41-19 victory against rival North Carolina at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, September 10, 2018

As reporters waited in the postgame interview room Saturday after East Carolina’s 41-19 football win over North Carolina, walls could not block the noise coming from down the hallway of the Ward Sports Medicine Building.

It was difficult to decipher the exact words or chants, but members of the ECU football team were roaring.

Even coach Scottie Montgomery’s voice was booming with pride as he got closer to the media room and was receiving congratulatory remarks during his walk. He took a breath to compose himself, glanced at the stat sheet and then broke down the play of his defense, which shut out the Tar Heels after halftime, the impact of freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers and other aspects of the much-needed victory at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

He even talked about not feeling relieved because of the daunting task of the team’s next game at Virginia Tech, which remains a very difficult matchup, but the noises and yells that had already bursted out of the Pirate locker room had already told the story.

This was a game between teams that each went 3-9 last season, and both head coaches are facing pressure to win. Inevitably, one of them was going to fall into a worse spot because of Saturday’s outcome.

Led by the effective use of Ahlers mixing well with starting quarterback Reid Herring and a very productive and balanced rushing attack, Montgomery out-coached Larry Fedora. Instead of the Pirates’ leader having to answer more questions about his job security, it was Fedora who had to do the explaining from outside the visiting locker room as many Tar Heel fans were long gone from the stadium and are already counting down the days to basketball season.

ECU was able to openly celebrate the most important win of Montgomery’s career.

Pirate players not only were motivated by the hit to the head by UNC running back Antonio Williams on ECU starting cornerback Colby Gore, who was alert and transported to Vidant Medical Center under concussion protocol and later released, but also for the criticism Montgomery has faced. Those criticisms were at an all-time high after a season-opening loss to North Carolina A&T.

“At the end of the day that’s my coach and if you talk bad about my coach then I’m going to go out there and play my heart out,” said receiver Trevon Brown, who caught two touchdown passes from Shane Carden as a freshman in a 70-41 win in 2014 against the Tar Heels in Greenville and caught another TD from Herring on Saturday as a senior.

Montgomery has a 7-19 record at ECU. He is 2-0 against N.C. State and North Carolina, a win against each rival school from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Uncertainty remains about the long-term future for the Pirates and Montgomery, but at least for this game East Carolina showed the promise and potential that has been talked about since the end of last season. The Pirates backed up their words with their performance from the sideline and on the field.

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

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