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SUMMERS: ECU reconstruction on display?

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East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery talks to a referee during a game against North Carolina on Sept. 8, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Nathan Summers

Saturday, September 15, 2018

East Carolina football is under reconstruction.

For the first time last Saturday, some progress was evident on the field inside the Pirates' home stadium currently surrounded by scaffolding and temporary fencing. That is evidence of a bold $60 million upgrade in the works.

The men who wear the purple hardhats on weekends offered proof of their own renovation project in a comfortable third straight victory against North Carolina, 41-19, to even their record at 1-1 before an unplanned two-week break caused by Hurricane Florence.

Although the outcome of the day was shaped somewhat by an unimaginative and largely inept effort by the Tar Heels, the Pirates were sharp in their execution and gutsy in their play-calling.

In what many billed as the biggest game of Scottie Montgomery's coaching career, he and the Pirates defied the odds by winning and doing so convincingly. Somehow, there was little to no pressure evident in the way the team played, or around Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, where the biggest, loudest crowd in a couple of years never booed, even when its team trailed early.

The win fans witnessed was just the fifth at home since the 2015 season.

No one panicked, not even fifth-year senior running back Anthony Scott, who is trying to grasp the final carries of his career without error and who punched in a touchdown to give the Pirates an early lead. That seemed unlikely a year ago for a player who was forced to sit out last season due to academics after previously being demoted to a limited role because of fumbles.

With his job on the line, Montgomery put his faith back in Scott. He also unleashed his crew of recent recruits with confidence, including allowing true freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers to make his first big splash as a Pirate with a pair of critical touchdowns.

Another big score came from sophomore rusher Darius Pinnix, who like Ahlers emerged from his third-string place on the depth chart to play a pivotal role in a memorable win. Montgomery can play Ahlers in three more games before losing the QB's redshirt status, leaving the coach a big decision to make later.

Montgomery now has seven wins in two-plus seasons in Greenville. He will need to somehow find five more of them in the next nine to not only live up to his 2017 postseason claim about making the postseason this season, but presumably also for him to live to see another season as ECU's football coach.

He has a long way to go, but Montgomery garnered some unexpected favor with another ECU thumping of an increasingly hapless UNC team, and he did so with the most credible team and game plan he has put on the field in three years.

Time will tell if all that construction equipment will serve as the backdrop for an ECU football rebuild.

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

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