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Blackwell: Get rid of the negativity

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East Carolina defensive coordinator David Blackwell looks on from the sideline at N.C. State on Dec. 1, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, December 1, 2018

RALEIGH — Defensive coordinator David Blackwell was joined by senior East Carolina football players Garrett McGhin and Cannon Gibbs during a reflective postgame news conference after ECU’s 58-3 loss at N.C. State on Saturday

Blackwell, who served as head coach for the game after Scottie Montgomery’s ouster on Thursday, had a simple message for all people associated with ECU to cap an emotional week.

“I challenge our fans to get behind whoever the next coach is and get behind this program,” he said. “With our fans and our people, we have to lose the negativity around the university and with our fractured fan base. We have to come back together.”

Blackwell is an ECU alum, and this was his first season as defensive coordinator at his alma mater.

The Pirates’ roller-coaster September included beginning the year with a surprising 28-23 loss in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to North Carolina A&T, then the Pirates upset North Carolina with a 41-19 win.

ECU struggled again in the American Athletic Conference. A factor in Montgomery’s dismissal was his 4-20 AAC record in three seasons.

The season culminated with Saturday’s rout by the Wolfpack that was fueled by the hosts’ 655 total yards. The Pirates will begin their 2019 season at N.C. State.

“This was awful and it was tough, and it’s not the standard here at ECU,” Gibbs, a linebacker and team captain, said. “But I’m definitely excited to see our (younger) guys go out and compete, hopefully with no injuries, and get some revenge. … The guys should see that we can get some growth through this.”

ECU’s major bright spot for this year was freshman quarterback and Greenville native Holton Ahlers’ rise to the starting spot around the midway point of the season. He was hurt and did not play Saturday, finishing with 2,377 total yards this year.

Receiver Tyler Snead, another true freshman, was inactive to preserve his redshirt status in order to be a redshirt freshman next season for a new coaching staff.

Attendance continued to decline at Dowdy-Ficklen this season, which for ECU included wins against only UNC, Old Dominion and Connecticut. Those three teams finished with a combined 7-28 record.

“Get in the stands, and let’s be proud of our university because it is our university and it is my university,” Blackwell said. “When I was at Clemson, the first thing I would do after our game is see how East Carolina did. When I was at Pitt, the first thing I would do is see how East Carolina did. This is my university for the rest of my life, through good and bad.”

Blackwell and the other Pirate coaches now enter uncertain times as ECU continues its search for a new head coach and an athletics director.

“I truly believe (ECU) can win (in the AAC), but with my future and those things, we’ll see what happens,” Blackwell said. “A lot of those things are beyond my control. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be at East Carolina, and I just told those seniors that this is going to be your university for the rest of your life.

“The one thing that we have to do as Pirates and alumni and fans is we have to get behind East Carolina. We have to get rid of some of the negativity around our university.”

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

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