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Pirates try to regroup for final trio of games

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East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery motions to an official from the sideline during a game against Central Florida on Oct. 20, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, November 12, 2018

As East Carolina’s football team has three games remaining in its season and is out of bowl consideration with a 2-7 record that will not allow for reaching the required six-win mark, coach Scottie Montgomery remains focused on the day-to-day aspects of managing his team.

Without an athletics director in place yet and uncertainty surrounding the future of Montgomery with the Pirates, the third-year coach this week is focused first and foremost on managing a fluid roster and lineup.

Listed as out for Saturday night’s home against Connecticut (1-9) are impact offensive players in receiver Deondre Farrier, tight end Johnny Bogle and linemen John Spellacy and Branden Pena. Montgomery is hopeful for former starting tight end Anthony Watley’s return to active status, and the coach said punter Jonn Young, who was injured during Saturday’s 24-18 loss at Tulane, will be worked back into practices in the coming days and should be available versus the struggling Huskies.

“I have to make sure that I am making the biggest investment for our football team and our players to allow for time and just time spent with each one of these guys,” Montgomery said Monday during his weekly news conference. “The locker room is completely different (than previous losing seasons). We practiced Sunday, the day after a huge game for us and we didn’t come out victorious, and we practiced extremely well.

“We have to continue to keep our guys healthy is, I think, the biggest hurdle at this point in time.”

That includes freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers, who has started three straight games and likely been the Pirates’ best bright spot during another trying campaign. The 6-foot-3, 236-pound left-hander has led ECU in rushing in seven straight contests, and against the Green Wave, he threw a season-high 67 passes while totaling 360 yards through the air and two touchdowns with an interception.

He was working behind a revamped and banged-up offensive line.

“We have to be better in the run game and we can’t stress this young quarterback the way we have stressed him, even though I like the way he is taking care of the football and like the way he’s running the ball,” Montgomery said. “We are really excited about the direction he is going, but he has to continue to protect himself because he is still taking one or two shots a game that if we get hit by the right guy in that game, we’ll lose him. … We have to give our running backs the ability to create some different types of runs for them and that’s what we are doing, but unfortunately we are struggling at some of the positions on the interior (of the line).”

Despite being on a five-game losing streak, the Pirates are actually favored against UConn. The Huskies’ only victory of the season is a 56-49 win over Rhode Island on Sept. 15.

Montgomery was asked Monday about East Carolina not having an AD and if he has received a vote of confidence from administration, and Montgomery reinforced that his main focus is on the team and not future plans.

“I do have conversations with people, but 99.9 percent of my time is trying to make sure that we can put the best football players on the field and keep our kids healthy and try to give our offense, defense and special teams the best chance to win,” he said.

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

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