The competitive portion of East Carolina’s rapidly deteriorating 2016 football season ended Saturday.
With their self-destructive 55-31 loss to Southern Methodist at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, the Pirates were officially eliminated from bowl consideration, forcing coach Scottie Montgomery, his staff and their players to switch gears and refocus their goals as they head into the final two games on their schedule.
“That’s where we are right now,” Montgomery said after watching his team commit five turnovers, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns, while falling to 3-7 (1-5 in the American Athletic Conference).
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SMU 55, East Carolina 31 | Nov. 12, 2016
- Al Myatt’s Inside Game Day: Turnovers sink Pirates
- Brett Friedlander’s Game Day Slants: Reevaluation Underway
- W.A. Myatt’s Game Day Photo Gallery
- Audio: Coach Mo Post-Game
“We understand that at this point in time we’re out of any kind of bowl contention, so the evaluation of our team starts tonight.”
It’s an evaluation process that will almost certainly begin at the most important position on the field.
Senior Philip Nelson started Saturday’s game, but for the second straight week, he was lifted before the halftime break. Last week at Tulsa, it was a shoulder injury that precipitated his benching in favor of backup Gardner Minshew.
This time, it was a spotty performance that ended with interceptions on two of his final four passes. The first went for a 70-yard touchdown by SMU’s Horace Richardson that proved to be the beginning of the end of ECU’s chances — both in the game and for bowl eligibility.
Nelson finished the game 11 of 19 for 144 yards and those two interceptions. Minshew was slightly better, complet