AP ECU wrs

East Carolina offensive players, including Tyler Snead (22) and Shane Calhoun, left, celebrate a play against South Carolina on Sept. 11. Calhoun had 114 receiving yards versus Marshall.

East Carolina’s Donnie Kirkpatrick walked into Wednesday’s post-practice news conference smiling and ready to talk like an offensive coordinator who just coached in a high-scoring victory.

ECU won 42-38 at Marshall on Saturday night, finishing with a 21-0 scoring advantage in the fourth quarter. Kirkpatrick said some of the team’s success that night can be attributed to receivers simply being open, especially compared to the previous week in a low-scoring loss to South Carolina.

“We didn’t go any faster or do anything different, but we just played better,” Kirkpatrick said. “We didn’t drop the ball as much. We did have one drop, but we didn’t have as many drops, and the guys got open. We matched up a little better. It’s a game of matchups, with personnel, and that’s why you see some games are high-scoring games and then there are some games that are low-scoring games. ... We matched up well with their players.”

Tight end Shane Calhoun had a breakout performance, making eight catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Snead and Audie Omotosho each had five receptions, and versatile, speedy starting running back Keaton Mitchell joined the aerial attack with four catches for 35 yards.

“We just got some good drives going in the fourth quarter and the kids made plays,” Kirkpatrick said. “Audie started going crazy. Finally, he just relaxed and ran a couple of the best routes I’ve ever seen from him. He was doing it and getting open and catching the ball.”

A theme by Pirate head coach Mike Houston for this week is focusing on practices and continuing to improve each day while preparing to face Charleston Southern on Saturday at 6 p.m. Houston referenced “blocking out the noise” after an important win, and he said the focus was right Tuesday and Wednesday.


Players have reiterated Houston’s mindset of being excited about this week.

“Coming off a win, we are going to keep the momentum just coming out to practice every day and working hard and showing it on game days,” said reserve tight end Zech Byrd, who had a massive block for Rahjai Harris on Harris’ 1-yard touchdown run for a 42-38 lead with 55 seconds remaining. “You are ready to go to practice every day (after winning).”

The victory over the Thundering Herd and rolling that into another win or wins would go a long way toward the Pirates’ goal of making a bowl game. ECU (1-2) started 3-2 in 2019, Houston’s first season, and was 1-4 a year ago through five games.

ECU’s comeback at Marshall was its largest comeback victory — from 17 points down — since it defeated N.C. State, 37-34, after also facing a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter at the Peach Bowl on Jan. 1, 1992.

“It was an incredible time with our players after the game and made for a really enjoyable plane ride home,” Houston said of defeating the Herd, which was 2-0 after wins over Navy and N.C. Central. “The food tastes better today. The sun is brighter and the air a little more fresh. Winning helps a lot of things. We were excited to get a big road win over a very good opponent in a very challenging atmosphere and situation. It should be a win we can build on, and we’re looking forward to being back home this weekend in front of a home crowd at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.”

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