College football fans tend to give up on their teams much too easily.
A Pirate Nation panic attack began sometime in the third quarter of East Carolina’s opening game with James Madison. The Pirates fell in the opener, 34-14, to the defending FCS national champions.
Coming off a 3-9 season there was new hope with several graduate transfers and an influx of talent from recruiting.
Head coach Scottie Montgomery had said the ‘chip’ was back at ECU and that his team showed plenty of fight in preseason camp.
That “fight” didn’t make it out of the locker room for opening night. The team that played with fight and with a chip wore purple and gold, but hailed from Harrisonburg, Virginia.
It all started with the Dukes’ ability to run the football — and Pirates inability to do the same.
“The number that stands out is 422 to 80 — our rushing yards on offense versus the rushing yards we allowed,” said Montgomery at his weekly press conference on Monday morning. (Audio: Replay Montgomery’s presser…] “Overall it was a poor performance. The lack of our run game on offense and poor red zone efficiency really started from the beginning.”
Every time the Dukes ran the football there seemed to be a lane. Add in runs of 85 yards, 80 yards and 70 yards and the stats were mind-boggling.
Coach Mo opened his presser by placing some of the blame on his own shoulders.
“I’ve got to do a better job, me personally, of managing our emotions before and during the game,” said Montgomery.
Those emotions heated up a couple of times as a frustrating night evolved into a loss to open the season.
Team captains Gardner Minshew and Jimmy Williams were reportedly at odds with one another. Montgomery downplayed that report when asked about it on Monday.
“Jimmy is really emotional and he should have been emotional,” explained Montgomery. “A couple of times he was looking to come out of the game because he had run down the field and the people that were responsible for coming in for him didn’t necessarily come in one time and he really needed a blow, so it upset him.”
Montgomery has promised changes quickly. One of the big changes will come at quarterback, where Thomas Sirk will get the start on Saturday against West Virginia.
Coach Mo explained it this way.
“Competitive nature, right there,” he said. “I thought that he gave our team a big boost when he got up off the ground, he could have laid down. Right then I thought that was the spirit of the leader. That moment, when he got up off the ground, it changed everything for me just because I saw a guy that no matter what the situation, he was going to get up and compete for us.”
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As bad as it was on Saturday night, it’s nothing that a win or two can’t fix. That’s the issue. The schedule is so difficult and many Pirate fans have pushed a very early panic button.
“I don’t doubt that there is some panic,” said Montgomery. “For me I told the team and I will just tell everybody, ‘Don’t blink’. And I told the team, everyone on our coaching staff and the people that work on the field, ‘Don’t blink’. If I catch anybody blinking I told them I was going to cut their eyelids off.”
Montgomery finished with this.
“I felt like we worked extremely hard to get to that first game,” he said. “(We) put those guys in every situation that they were going to be in at games and we saw exactly what we were going to see and we failed. But we failed one day, and now we have a whole season in front of us and our guys will be prepared.
“But we are not going to blink. I’m not going to blink. I’m ready to coach. I know our coaches are fired up right now because we have had more meetings and more time and more late nights, and we have got a lot more to get going. We know exactly where we are as a team right now and that is not where we need to be. There are no concerns right now for me on finding out how we get better. I know what our problems are.”
Knowing what the problems are and fixing them with West Virginia and Virginia Tech up next on the schedule will provide Montgomery’s biggest challenge to date.