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Blackwell, Pirates regroup for Saturday's game

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David Blackwell, defensive coordinator and interim head coach for East Carolina, speaks during a news conference following the announcement of the release of head coach Scottie Montgomery on Nov. 29, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, November 29, 2018

An emotional day Thursday for the East Carolina football team will turn to a Friday with a light practice scheduled and a game Saturday at rival N.C. State to complete the Pirates’ season.

Defensive coordinator David Blackwell is in charge of the team after head coach Scottie Montgomery was let go Thursday afternoon, effective immediately, and Blackwell said later in the day that has led to an uneasy situation.

“Is there a blueprint for this? No,” Blackwell said. “This is 48 hours before a football game and obviously I’ve never been a part of it or ever remember that happening. ... We came off the practice field this morning and everybody was in a good mood and excited and two hours later, they were calling us back in.

“We are kind of in an area that I don’t think you are ever prepared for. You just have to do as best as you can.”

Blackwell was hired by Montgomery on Dec. 7, 2017, to help fix a Pirate defense that ranked last in the country in 2017. The Pirates have made positive strides on defense this year, and on Saturday ECU will face an NCSU team looking to stay on track for 10 wins.

The only Wolfpack club to ever win double-digit games in a season was the 2002 squad that finished 11-3. N.C. State (8-3) held off North Carolina, 34-28, in overtime last Saturday, and UNC coach Larry Fedora was fired the next day.

“They know and they can count, and what that could mean,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said during his weekly news conference when asked about his team’s record heading into Saturday. “But that also doesn’t win games. Our fundamentals and our technique and our execution is where our mindset is right now.”

ECU’s season has been a mix of close losses and blowouts, like a costly 49-6 setback at Temple on Oct. 6 and last Friday’s 56-6 rout at Cincinnati. The Pirates finished 1-7 in the American Athletic Conference.

“The bottom line is we had three games this year decided by seven points or less,” Blackwell said. “We are not here talking right now (without Montgomery) if we win those games. We would be getting ready to play for a bowl game. 

“We were 18 points away from a bowl game is the reality of where we are, but we didn’t get that done. In all three of those games we could have won on defense or on offense or on special teams, it wasn’t just one deal.”

Thursday’s announcements for the Pirates also went beyond wins and losses, even though the driving force behind Montgomery’s dismissal was his 9-26 record in three seasons.

“We want to try and focus ourselves to go win this football game and compete at a high level, but it’s not easy,” Blackwell said. “I called my wife today and had her go take my son out of school. It is hard.”

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

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