East Carolina’s trip through its non-conference slate to date couldn’t have gone any worse, so maybe this week’s abrupt schedule change will pay dividends.
The 0-3 Pirates were scheduled for an off-week leading up to the American Athletic Conference showdown at home with nationally-ranked South Florida.
The American had to shuffle some games in light of the hurricanes this month, and now ECU will play a rare Sunday game at UConn.
Pirate head coach Scottie Montgomery sees the change as a positive.
“The one reason it is helpful is because once you lose you want to get back on the field as soon as you can,” said Montgomery at his weekly news conference. [Replay news conference audio…]
“It lingers,” he added. “You have to think about that loss and we have to hear things for two weeks. I think our guys are excited about going and getting a chance to play this weekend.”
It’s also the AAC opener for both teams. Coach Montgomery maintains that despite the tough start, every one of the Pirate goals in 2017 is certainly attainable. He says league play is a whole new ball game.
“We also know that our conference play starts a different level of competition,” he explained. “We are around these guys a lot more, the players know these guys more and I’m around these coaches a lot more. We know their systems, we know the personnel and we know a lot of other people. So we are really happy about getting started right here.
“It is a good thing for us to be able to go and play this weekend.”
This is a fragile ECU football team. It’s a team that has played the type of Pirate football we have come to know and expect for exactly one quarter in three games. Just one quarter of good football out of a dozen makes for a long start to the season.
After vaulting out to a 17-7 lead after a quarter on Saturday, the Hokies reeled off 57 unanswered points. That’s unheard of!
Oddly, one of the themes going into the Virginia Tech game was for the Pirates to get off to a good start. I guess the theme should have been more specific.
Zay returns to North Carolina
The NCAA’s all-time receptions leader, former Pirate Zay Jones, was back in our state on Sunday.
Jones and the Buffalo Bills had the football with a chance to pull off the upset in the game’s final minutes. Zay hadn’t caught a pass up until that last drive, and then he caught a couple for first downs.
On 4th and 11 with :14 to play, Bills quarterback Tyron Taylor looked Zay’s way. It certainly had a chance, but Zay couldn’t haul it in. The catch would have set the Bills up inside the five-yard line with a shot to win the game.
The Panthers held on for a 9-3 win.
“I think it was a pretty well thrown ball,” Zay told reporters in Charlotte after the game. “It was a perfect play to beat the coverage. I just didn’t make the catch. It just didn’t bounce my way. It’s very tough, especially because of the guys in this locker room that I play my heart out for and I absolutely love. It’s just really difficult right now.”
What could have been the perfect, storybook ending turned into disappointment for Zay. Coach Montgomery was sympathetic and says Zay will certainly learn from disappointment.
“If it were anybody else I would be worried,” said Montgomery. “But I think it could turn out to be one of the best things that could happen to Zay. He’s going to flip the script and work even harder. It’s a humbling process.”
That process will continue for Zay as the Bills get set to take on the 2-0 Broncos this week in Buffalo.