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BYH, some see the glass as half empty. I say just get a smaller glass and quit complaining....

WOODWARD: Raw emotions, support bring Houston close to Pirate Nation

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East Carolina first-year head football coach Mike Houston stands in a tunnel Saturday as he prepares to run onto the field with the Pirates for the first time at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, September 9, 2019

Before Mike Houston celebrated his first victory as East Carolina’s football coach and brought much-needed joy to Pirate fans, he already had won over Pirate Nation.

What unfolded Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, whether viewing from a fresh seat inside TowneBank Tower or a traditional bleacher spot on the opposite side of the stadium, was classic Houston.

His ECU football team knew it had a major advantage against Gardner-Webb and it capitalized, getting physical with the Bulldogs and controlling the line of scrimmage for a thorough 48-9 victory.

But the real-life sequence from four days earlier was more important than executing a trick play or making the correct call on a fourth down.

An emotional Houston, 47, began his Tuesday weekly news conference by announcing that his father, Bill, died earlier in the day. Unbeknownst to the coach, his authenticity during those three minutes of delivering difficult words drew him closer to ECU fans.

More so than any other news conference or game, that day is when Houston officially became East Carolina’s head football coach. It is a position he can hold for as long as he wants.

In the hours after his emotional address, ECU players, staff members, fans and Greenville citizens used social media to rally behind Houston. For a man they have really only known since December, they wanted to support their coach.

It was a breakthrough moment for Houston and Pirate fans, who too many times since Skip Holtz left in 2010 were agitated and not unified in their thoughts about ECU football coaches and administrators.

On Saturday night after Houston received a game ball from athletics director Jon Gilbert, who like Houston was hired in December and was quickly embraced in Greenville, the new coach sang the East Carolina fight song and smiled and jumped around with his players. He was composed and proud during a demanding, trying and yet rewarding week.

“It has been tough,” he said. “When I got back here (after the funeral in Franklin on Thursday), I just tried to focus on our players and the game. ... Certainly I felt it and the way they responded this week was incredible and it speaks a lot about their character. They were constantly checking on me.”

Many challenges remain, on the football field, for Houston and the Pirates. Most immediately is a tricky matchup at Navy this Saturday, and inevitably there will be losses by ECU in the American Athletic Conference.

But Pirate Nation showed since Tuesday morning that it is ready to ride with Houston. Together again, they are prepared to face all wins and losses.

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

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ECU

September 14, 2019

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Navy cruised to a 2-0 record in a frustrating day Saturday for East Carolina football, which lost 42-10 to the Midshipmen for ECU to drop to 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the American Athletic Conference in coach Mike Houston’s first season with the Pirates.

Here are three…

East Carolina Navy Football-4

September 14, 2019

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Add quarterback Malcolm Perry prominently to the list of Navy football players to enjoy spinning, shaking, shedding and sizzling the East Carolina football defense.

In a series that began in 2006 and has been dictated by the Midshipmen and their punishing and methodical…

East Carolina Navy Football

September 14, 2019

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Among the improbable things for a disastrous day by the East Carolina football team Saturday was that Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry passed for more yards than Holton Ahlers.

Perry and a stingy Navy defense led the charge in the Midshipmen's 42-10 rout of the Pirates in the…

East Carolina Navy Football-3

September 14, 2019

Here are three Navy players to keep an eye on as East Carolina heads to Annapolis, Md., to face the Midshipmen in American Athletic Conference action:

Malcolm Perry

Any Navy team runs as good as its quarterback. Perry, a senior former running back, is far from a perfect passer but he remains as one…

Navy Football Preview

September 14, 2019

Q: What is your favorite form of social media?

A: I would say Twitter. It’s more active, everybody is on Twitter. I like Instagram, too, but I like Twitter more.

Q: Where is your favorite spot to eat at in Greenville?

A: I will say Kickback Jacks. I like Kickback Jacks. I love their spinach…

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September 14, 2019

These three questions appeared in our Pirate Gameday section to preview East Carolina versus Navy in football. 

The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network. Check back after the game for the answers:

1. Any turnovers by the Pirates? Because of time of possession, turnovers…

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September 14, 2019

Mike Houston didn't celebrate too long after his first victory as East Carolina's football coach, partly because he knew what was ahead in this week's trip trip to Navy.

ECU (1-1) and Navy (1-0) play their respective first American Athletic Conference game of the season today in a 3:30 p.m. kickoff…

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September 13, 2019

Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo said earlier this week that he wants to see more passes this year from quarterback Malcolm Perry.

East Carolina defensive coordinator Bob Trott is not putting too much stock into any new Navy mindset and is still planning to mainly see running plays Saturday when…

Navy Football

September 12, 2019

East Carolina first-year athletics director Jon Gilbert said he noticed even before kickoff last Saturday night at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium that slow concessions could be an issue that could increase as the night progressed for ECU’s first home football game of the season, so he put a priority…

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September 12, 2019

East Carolina’s football team heads north on Saturday to play Navy, which has beaten the Pirates in three straight meetings and holds a 5-1 all-time advantage in the series.

It will be the American Athletic Conference opener for both teams and coach Mike Houston’s league debut with the…

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