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WOODWARD: Bad time for a primetime matchup

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East Carolina receiver Zay Jones, left, turns upfield during a game against Connecticut at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Oct. 29, 2016.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, November 12, 2018

NEW ORLEANS, La.

The American Athletic Conference features teams effectively on the rise at this point in the college football season.

It starts with undefeated Central Florida, and trailing not far behind are surging Temple and Cincinnati.

East Carolina is not one of those teams. Neither is Connecticut.

Yet the stage is set for Saturday night, when the hapless Huskies visit Greenville to play East Carolina. Unfortunately for the only two teams still winless in AAC play at 0-6 each, it is one of the most unattractive games of the entire college football season.

UConn (1-9) is on a seven-game losing streak. ECU (2-7) has lost five straight, the latest a 24-18 defeat at Tulane in which the Pirates trailed for most of the contest and had a spirited comeback effort halted completely in the final seconds.

Freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers and the Pirates had their moments of intrigue and promise, but again they didn’t make enough plays collectively during the right times to record an elusive road victory. Tulane was in better position throughout the game to win, partly because the home side was better coached and has the confidence needed to emerge victorious in such games.

Tulane, another team looking for a strong finish to the season, has won three straight AAC games for the first time in school history.

Yet somehow, the UConn-ECU matchup is set for primetime television on CBS Sports.

It will kickoff at 7 p.m. It will be cold.

These are the two worst teams in the league.

Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium will be mostly empty for the Pirates’ final home game of the season and the growing possibility of coach Scottie Montgomery’s final home contest in Greenville.

A loss to the Huskies should finalize Montgomery’s ouster. A win would temporarily please the team and reunite Pirate Nation with the feeling of a win.

How did the once-proud Pirates get to this low point?

They were mainly overmatched through three straight losing seasons from 2015-17 — the first of those under Ruffin McNeill’s guidance and then two 3-9 campaigns by Montgomery — and a 2-7 record through nine games this year guarantees that East Carolina will miss the postseason and end with a losing record for the fourth consecutive year.

Montgomery guaranteed last November that East Carolina would be a bowl team this season. He was confident in an ECU breakthrough.

Instead, the Pirates are playing in ho-hum games in November once again and the most uninspiring will be when the Huskies and Pirates meet on the same field.

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

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