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ECU run game still seeking spark

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East Carolina running back Darius Pinnix tries to get around Houston's Deontay Anderson (2) during their game at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Oct. 13.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Usual backup Darius Pinnix is first on the East Carolina depth chart at running back this week, and there is optimism that he could provide the jolt desperately needed for the Pirate run game Saturday versus lowly Connecticut.

Such a conventional breakthrough also is not guaranteed, which is why ECU (2-7, 0-6 American Athletic Conference) is looking at myriad of ways to potentially effectively run the football against UConn (1-9, 0-6). The Pirates will enter the night game at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium ranked 118th in the nation in rush offense and eighth in passing offense.

“We have to find somebody hot and go with him at running back,” offensive coordinator Tony Petersen said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think we are looking at any and all running backs, and if we get somebody going then we’ll keep him in there. We’re going to do anything we can and with whatever plays we can put up on the board.”

Senior Anthony Scott has been the team’s starting RB for most of the season, but he did not receive a carry last Saturday in a loss at Tulane. Quarterback Holton Ahlers led the Pirates for the seventh straight week with 16 carries for 67 yards.

Hussein Howe started for the second consecutive game, running four times for 13 yards. Pinnix had five carries for 8 yards in the 24-18 loss.

“I just want to keep grinding and playing hard and keep motivating my other brothers,” said Pinnix, who enjoyed a fruitful outing two weeks ago with a pair of short rushing touchdowns versus Memphis.

The one-win Huskies have high-scoring potential on offense, but they have been vulnerable mostly all year on defense. They are last in the nation in total defense, scoring defense and rushing defense.

Opponents have averaged 331.2 rushing yards per game against UConn.

Tied to the Pirates’ problems on offense has been a fluid offensive line that remains limited in personnel because of injuries.

“Injuries are a part of it, there is no question, but we have to be innovative with some stuff,” Pirate head coach Scottie Montgomery said. “It could look a little wild out there this weekend in the run game, but we have to do what we have to do to run the football and score points and keep our defense off the field.”

Ahlers has been knocked around and has battled through physical matchups the last few weeks, but he was a full participant for Tuesday’s practice and is looking to continue his personal late-season surge. Rainy weather also didn’t affect Tuesday’s morning session.

“We were able to get all of our work in, which is something that has been unusual compared to previous years,” Montgomery said. “With this new morning schedule, we have not missed a day of practice. That has been good for us.”

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

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