The East Carolina Pirates knew they were in for a long trip this past weekend. Little did they know it would be as long as it turned out to be.
The Pirates knew they were facing a high powered offense in Tulsa that loves to run the football. The Pirates also knew they would most likely be in a shootout and would have to score a bunch in order to keep up.
Sometimes games don’t play out the way they look on paper. This one did. ECU didn’t have an answer for the Tulsa running game and just couldn’t keep up on offense.
Pirate head coach Scottie Montgomery opened his weekly news conference with this:
“I’ll start by saying Tulsa had a great team with a lot of weapons on offense and a lot of weapons on defense. Offensively, their weapons were their skill players – the receivers, the backs – and all of them combined proved to be a tough task for our defense.”
The Golden Hurricane had a pair of rushers, James Flanders (181) and D’Angelo Brewer (180), that ran roughshod on the ECU defense. Tulsa racked up over 600 yards of offense in the 45-24 victory.
With the season and hopes of a bowl steadily slipping away, Coach Montgomery knows what has to happen to turn things around.
“The first thing we have to do is eliminate the things that we haven’t had before,” said Montgomery. “The penalties have to go away. I think our technique in coverage and tackling has to be a lot better. We’re trying to put as many different guys and bodies on the field that we can. The first thing you have to do is control all of the things that take no physical talent, and that’s what we’ll start with.”
The usually disciplined Pirates were flagged 13 times for 117 yards. The penalty parade even included one on an ECU assistant coach that obviously drew the ire of the head coach.
The one positive for this season continues to be the historic play of wide receiver Zay Jones. Jones had 13 catches for a career high 206 yards and a touchdown in the loss against Tulsa. He now needs to average 6.7 catches per game the rest of the way to set the all-time NCAA record for career receptions held by former Pirate Justin Hardy.
“Congratulations to Zay Jones on another great performance,” said Montgomery.
Coach Mo knows the record certainly isn’t a big concern for Jones. That statement pretty much sums up just how valuable Zay is to his team and his coaches.
“I think he’s working to try to win every game,” said Montgomery. “That’s not his deal. If it was someone else on the team I would probably say they were pretty conscious of it, just like if another receiver out there was close to it. I don’t know if they could handle it the way he has. He’s more concerned about our wins and losses. When it comes, it’ll be a big deal for him and we’ll make sure we celebrate it, but the biggest deal is he’s trying to lead in every single way that he can. That’s what he’s focused on.”
The Pirates are now focused on Southern Methodist, and then trying to win out to become bowl eligible. The Ponies perhaps offer the path of least resistance, because both Navy and Temple will be playing for a possible spot in the American title game.
ECU hosts the Mustangs on Saturday and welcomes the Middies to Dowdy-Ficklen a week later before closing out with the Owls on the road on Nov. 26.
SMU has a great win this year over then 11th ranked Houston. Last week the Pony Express got derailed by Memphis, 51-7.
Which SMU team comes to Greenville will go a long way toward deciding if the Pirates can pull out a win or not.
The season is down to its last three games.
There’s still time, but that time is quickly winding down.