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Coach: JMU-ECU was a 'butt-whooping'

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East Carolina's Trevon Brown dives for the ball while being defended by James Madison's Curtis Oliver (26) during their game on Sept. 2, 2017 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, December 7, 2018

The difference in total yards — 614 to 362 in favor of James Madison — tells a lot of the story of JMU’s 34-14 win over East Carolina at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to begin the 2017 season for both teams.

Coach Mike Houston, who posted a 37-6 record at JMU in three seasons before leaving to accept the ECU job, has more to add to the story.

“My impression is there’s no way that game should have been what is was. There’s no way,” Houston said Tuesday.

Houston, who has already made a positive impression on Pirate fans with his intensity and demeanor, then expanded on his comment when asked to clarify.

“It should have been more, because that was a butt-whooping,” he said. “And our team here, in time, will play the way that team that came in here did last year. That is going to be how our team plays on game day.”

The scene played out in the Dukes’ victory in Greenville on Sept. 2, 2017, became too familiar the last few ECU seasons under fired head coach Scottie Montgomery. The visiting fans were soaking in their inevitable victory during the fourth quarter as many East Carolina fans had already left Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

ECU scored a touchdown with 23 seconds remaining to create the final score.

The Pirates’ final two home games this year featured announced attendances of 29,127 and 27,234, marking the first time since 2004 that the Pirates had consecutive crowds of less than 30,000.

Like Joe Dooley did when he was hired in April to lead the Pirate basketball team, Houston has already tried to ignite the fan base and urge people to get back into the stands at full capacity.

“With 50,000 strong in Dowdy-Ficklen and all the passion and the energy and the enthusiasm, that is something I look forward to getting to be a regular week-in and week-out and a regular in the fourth quarter,” Houston said. “We need that help from our fan base during the fourth quarter of tight ball games. The fans need to understand that they can be an impact in the game during those situations.”

Houston also has already been busy filling out his coaching staff, which is expected to include a heavy influx of JMU staffers led by offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick and defensive coordinator Bob Trott.

Also heavy on Houston’s mind is that there are only two recruiting weekends remaining before the December early signing period begins Dec. 19.

With not much time to waste, the coach and ECU are working on securing pledges from recruits who had previously verbally committed to Montgomery and his staff, many of them in-state prospects. That will be a big focus this weekend during official visits.

"We are going to work with them first,” Houston said. “We are also going to try to pursue non-committed players in the region that are at the ability level that we feel like can help us win championships. One thing with recruiting is that we are going to be very straightforward and honest with our recruits.

“They are going to know exactly where we stand with them, individually, at all times. That will start with our interactions this weekend.”

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

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