East Carolina hopes the week off from Hurricane Matthew pays dividends in the second half of the season.
The time off certainly didn’t hurt. Not only was it a break from football, it was combined with a break from school because of the problems with the flooding in the area.
Coach Scottie Montgomery and company had a chance to heal up, while working to improve for the stretch run.
“A positive of the tragedy like the one we went through was that we had a chance to be around our team a whole lot over the last 5-6 days,” Coach Montgomery said at his weekly news conference on Monday. “We were able to grow our team much closer and hopefully worked out all of the kinks that we tried to start turning since the start of our four-game losing streak.”
The Pirates were in camp mode last week. No school, no games and nothing really pressing. It was a time to take a deep breath, reboot, and get set for the second half of the season.
One of the players that certainly benefitted from the off time was quarterback Philip Nelson. Montgomery didn’t go into the specifics of Nelson’s injuries, but we all know the Pirate quarterback hasn’t been himself since the win over North Carolina State.
“Philip had a great practice on Sunday night,” said Montgomery. “What really got me fired up about him was the way that he practiced, and then I came up and looked out the window and I was upset at Philip because he was out there running routes like he was a receiver and Gardner [Minshew] was throwing it to him when we had eight other receivers out there late. They’re having fun again playing football. I think we hit a certain level of fatigue, but seeing Philip out there last night let us know that we can count on him.”
A healthy Philip Nelson will go a long way toward helping this Pirate team snap their four-game losing streak.
Standing in the way is a Cincinnati team that is also struggling. The Bearcats are 0-3 in American play with losses to Houston, South Florida and Connecticut. East Carolina leads the all-time series with Cincinnati 12-7, but the Bearcats have won the last five against ECU.
Montgomery sees a lot of his own Pirates in this Cincinnati football team.
“Coach [Tommy] Tuberville has a really good football team,” said Montgomery. “They’ve had some games very similar to ours where turnovers within about a minute and 15 [seconds] and two-minute timeframe changed the outcome of some of their games.”
Speaking of Cincinnati, the Bearcats and the rest of the American Athletic Conference got the news on Monday that the Big 12 would not expand at this time.
That’s great news for East Carolina and the American. AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco keeps his league intact for now, and will look to improve on the league’s television contract.
Aresco may never get to “Power 6” status for his league, but he has already helped the league to be the best of the “Group of 5.” With Aresco at the helm, the American is in good hands and perhaps the league can ride this momentum to bigger and better things.
A strong second half of the season is certainly a possibility for the Pirates. It all starts in Cincinnati in a game that both teams desperately need to win to keep their bowl hopes alive.
It’s been an interesting time with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew on all of our minds. Hopefully, things will settle down as the waters recede.
ECU looks to right the Pirate ship on the road on Saturday night.