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ECU reopens QB competition

East Carolina Temple Football-4

East Carolina quarterback Reid Herring gets sacked by Temple defensive tackle Michael Dogbe, center, and defensive end Jimmy Hogan during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018 in Philadelphia. (Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, October 8, 2018

East Carolina football heads into a new week without a defined starting quarterback.

Coach Scottie Montgomery said during his Monday weekly news conference, which came two days after the Pirates (2-3, 0-2 American Athletic Conference) were routed 49-6 at Temple, that a new depth chart having ‘OR’ between QBs Reid Herring, Kingsley Ifedi and Holton Ahlers means that ECU will use practices this week to determine the best plan for Saturday night’s home matchup against Houston (4-1, 1-0).

Herring, a sophomore, has started all five games this year, but all three signal-callers have played in each of the last two games. Ahlers and Ifedi are both freshmen.

“There will be a little bit of a change in practice to make sure that everybody is getting the right amount of reps,” Montgomery said. “Let me say it clear that we are not benching anybody, but we are trying to see the guy who is going to go out and perform at the highest level to give the rest of the team the opportunity to win. That’s where we are.”

Ahlers, a former D.H. Conley star in Greenville, has played in four games. If he plays in another as expected, he will lose his ability to redshirt and remain a freshmen for next season.

“We’ll potentially use multiple people, but I want the guy who has the quality leadership that we have talked about that is going to give us the best opportunity to win, to be in the game for most of the time,” Montgomery said of possibly continuing a QB rotation.

Montgomery added that the Pirate offense has been too one-dimensional at times.

Ahlers is averaging 6.2 yards per rush and leads the team with four rushing touchdowns, but the 6-foot-3, 236-pound left-hander is 2-of-10 passing for 7 yards. Ifedi, who has received the least amount of playing time, is 2-of-5 passing for 13 yards.

Herring has completed 54.1 percent of his passes (118-of-218) with six touchdowns and five interceptions, but on the ground he has 17 rushing attempts for minus-37 yards.

The scheme of Herring being the lead passer and Ahlers serving as a run-first QB worked great in a 41-19 win over North Carolina on Sept. 8, but it has faltered since then. ECU scored a total of 19 points in its two league games.

“The most important detail of it all is we need to start fast at practice tomorrow, and we need to start fast in the game on Saturday,” Montgomery said. “Then we’ll have a little better understanding of where we are going. This will be a game plan that is directed, in total, toward all three of them and what they can do, (instead of) a passing game and a running game.”

The Owls scored the first 28 points against ECU in a hurry, taking a 28-0 lead with 12:24 until halftime on Isaiah Wright’s 59-yard punt return touchdown. It was a 35-3 advantage at halftime.

Temple’s complete effort led to the Pirates getting out-gained 470-196 in total yards.

It was an alarming setback that Montgomery is hoping doesn’t become a trend. The Pirates faltered in AAC action in 2016 and ’17, finishing with a 3-9 overall record in each campaign.

“I don’t think it is trending in one way or another, but we have to be able to bounce back like we have done at one part of the year and bounce back again like we have done in another part of the year,” said Montgomery, who has a 3-15 career record with the Pirates in conference games. “(The Temple loss) was just very unfortunate because we had such a sharp week of practice. We practiced better last week than we played, so there is going to have to be some adjustments there.

“I think we got off to bad start and that changed our game plan offensively and changed our game plan on defense.”

Montgomery said that backup defensive end Michael Swift tore his ACL against the Owls. The coach also confirmed that fellow backup DE Dorian Hardy (recent arrest) is on the team, but his status for playing against Houston remains questionable.

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

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