Pirates roll into next week, better opponent
By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Monday, November 19, 2018
East Carolina football was back to practice Monday morning, one day earlier than usual because the Pirates play on Friday this week instead of Saturday.
ECU (3-7, 1-6 American Athletic Conference) also is back to playing the role of underdog. Cincinnati (9-2, 5-2) is listed as an 18-point favorite for the Friday afternoon matchup at Nippert Stadium against a Pirate team that just stopped a five-game losing streak by routing Connecticut, 55-21, on Saturday behind a whopping 657 offensive yards and a shut-down defensive effort for most of the night at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
“(Monday practice) was different, but it’s like I tell all these young guys that it is a blessing to be out here,” said senior receiver Trevon Brown, who against lowly UConn (1-10) extended his touchdown streak to five straight games and upped his season totals to 1,030 receiving yards and nine TDs. “It doesn’t matter what day we are out here because whenever we are out here you just have to cherish every moment.”
While families and friends will be gathered Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday, ECU will be traveling to Cincinnati. ECU beat Cincy, 48-20, a year ago, but the Bearcats have enjoyed one of the best turnaround stories in the nation this year thanks to a much-improved defense and a 6-0 start that included a victory at UCLA.
The Pirates will be without running back Darius Pinnix, who started versus UConn but sprained his ankle and is doubtful this week. Linebacker Ray Tillman, who also started and suffered a thigh contusion, also is out.
“(Tillman’s injury) required a little bit of an emergency surgery Sunday morning,” head coach Scottie Montgomery said during his weekly news conference. “I have to say and commend, as a senior, what he was able to do in that situation. Ray played at a high level and we’re really proud of him and our prayers go out to him.”
At linebacker, ECU will now lean on Cannon Gibbs, Bruce Bivens, Aaron Ramseur and possibly freshmen Gerard Stringer and Myles Berry. Hussein Howe is listed as the new starting running back.
Fresh off the feeling of a needed win, ECU’s players were energetic during Monday’s workout.
“We have to keep the momentum going and I’ve said all year that once we get that first conference win, then we’ll start rolling from there,” said starting quarterback Holton Ahlers, who had five total touchdowns Saturday and earned the AAC’s offensive player of the week nod on Monday. “We’re going to use that confidence rolling into this week.”
Defensive end Nate Harvey was named the league’s co-defensive player of the week. He had three sacks and reached 24.0 tackles for loss for the season, breaking a conference single-season record formerly held by Houston star Ed Oliver.
Saturday served as a banner night for the Pirates, but offensive coordinator Tony Petersen also warned Monday against putting too much stock into the statistics. The Huskies are the only team in the country allowing an average of more than 300 rush yards per game.
Ahlers and Trace Christian each rushed for more than 100 yards. The second half saw reserve quarterbacks Reid Herring and Caiden Norman take snaps.
“We made plays running the ball and made plays throwing the ball and put up some good points, but we played the worst defense in our league and that’s what you expect,” Petersen said. “Now this week we are playing the best defense in our league and we have to go out there and do everything we can to get some points on the board so we can win this game.”
Contact Ronnie Woodward at email@example.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.