These three questions were part of preview coverage for East Carolina’s game Saturday at Temple, which featured some pregame drama and was delayed 50 minutes amid COVID-19 concerns with Temple. The game kicked off and ECU never trailed, winning 28-3 for its victory against Temple since 1995.
Here are the answers:
1. Temple rushing yards?
The Owls tried to run the ball effectively and they ended with 46 ruses for 140 yards, but their entire offensive setup was out of sync and understandably ineffective given their limited personnel options. Because of injuries, COVID-19 protocols and a suspension to Matt Duncan, Temple did not have its top four quarterbacks available to play.
ECU took advantage of the situation and didn’t yield a touchdown for the first time since a 41-3 blowout of Connecticut on Oct. 29, 2016.
“All we emphasized this week was stop the run, stop the run, stop the run,” linebacker Xavier Smith said.
The first half ended with ECU leading 21-3 and holding a 101-78 edge in rushing yards. Total yards for the game were 447-235 in favor of the Pirates.
2. Pirate sacks?
The Pirates did not have a sack or a QB hurry. They focused on various coverages and were effective blanketing Temple receivers in the Owls’ limited offensive packages that often required heavy pass-protection schemes.
With fifth-string freshman Kamal Gray and receiver Branden Mack used as Temple QBs, the Owls’ longest passing play went 30 yards.
After Gray was 7-for-14 for 53 yards in the first half, Temple turned to Mack at QB to start the third quarter. The hosts went three-and-out and punted to ECU, which produced a touchdown on the ensuing possession for a 28-3 lead. Gray finished with 95 pass yards, and Mack was 0-for-2 on his passes.
3. Most ECU carries?
Rahjai Harris started and received a slew of initial carries, but Keaton Mitchell later emerged for the second straight week and thrived with 13 carries for 103 yards for an average of 7.9 yards per carry. Harris had one more carry with a team-high 14 for 65 yards.
Quarterback Holton Ahlers ran six times, and one of them was a 75-yard rumble to the 1-yard line. He then sneaked it in for his first rushing TD of the year and 13th of his career, making it 28-3 Pirates early in the third quarter.
“It was a quarterback draw and the line blocked great,” Ahlers said of his 75-yarder. “I was happy to finally get that and run that and have a good run there. Obviously, I like running the ball and like contact.”
The Pirates’ opening drive started with four straight runs by Harris totaling 24 yards. Veteran Darius Pinnix played sparingly, carrying seven times for 27 yards.
ECU finished with 40 rushes for 265 yards and Ahlers’ TD.
“I know they were without some kids and struggling at quarterback, but those front kids on defense and front kids on offense, those were the kids we played against last year and that’s a strong bunch,” ECU coach Mike Houston said. “That’s why I’m so proud of (tackles) Justin (Chase) and Walt (Stribling). ... It was their first college starts, and I thought that group played really well to give us a shot all day offensively.”
Contact Ronnie Woodward at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.