I had the rare opportunity to fly with the East Carolina football team for the Connecticut game over the weekend.
I am normally busy with high school football on Friday nights so it’s impossible to go on very many Pirate football trips.
The Sunday game, though, gave me that opportunity.
Traveling with the team is a real treat. The Pirates take a charter, so it’s an easy trip up on the day before the game and an easy trip back afterwards.
I’m sure the Pirates were happy with the win on Sunday, but the plane ride was a very quiet one home.
There were several factors. I believe the players were worn down by the heat. It felt like a late August afternoon in eastern North Carolina in East Hartford on Sunday.
I know the coaches were extremely busy. I sat across from ECU running backs coach Jason Nichols and watched as he looked at the UConn game film. Coach Nichols was busy the entire time he was on the plane. He watched the video and took notes on his phone.
Offensive line coach Geep Wade told me he graded his entire film while on the plane.
The American certainly didn’t do the Pirates any favors with the schedule change. South Florida, ECU’s next opponent, played on Thursday night, while the Pirates had the Sunday game. Pirate time will be precious this week.
As for the UConn game, the Pirates looked really good on offense and really struggled again on defense. The Huskies missed a chip shot field goal that would have sent the game to overtime. The miss sent the Pirates home with a 41-38 victory.
“I thought it was a great program win,” said second-year Pirate coach Scottie Montgomery. “All we have talked about is conference, conference, conference. Now we’re set up for a big one next week with USF.”
USF will come into Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday as the 18th-ranked team in the nation. The Bulls are also an early 23-point favorite.
“We kind of had a theme this week of, just shut up and play and just shut up and coach,” said Montgomery. “Just do your job. ”
Now the job gets a little harder. USF will be the third nationally-ranked opponent the Pirates have faced in September.
The ECU defense will have to figure out a way to at least slow down a most potent Bulls attack on offense led by quarterback Quinton Flowers.
USF also forced six turnovers, one off the school record, in last week’s 43-7 route of the Temple Owls. The Bulls held the Owls to minus-4 rushing yards on 33 attempts.
USF brings a program-record nine-game winning steak to Greenville. The Bulls have also scored 30 or more points in 21 consecutive games. That’s the fourth longest streak in the era of the Associated Press poll.
Sunday’s win over UConn certainly didn’t solve all of the Pirates’ problems.
But a win is a win and the victory was a much needed boost for this ECU program.
Time now to see if this team is ready to take that next step and be a player in the East Division race in the American Athletic Conference.