For the fifth time this season the East Carolina defense gave up 50 or more points in a game.
The final was Houston 52, ECU 27 in a game that followed a familiar script. The Pirates opened with a trick play, but Thomas Sirk overthrew his wide open receiver. The Cougars scored 21 quick points before the Pirates would answer.
It was another long day at the office for second year coach Scottie Montgomery and his squad.
Coach Montgomery had said last week that November football called for teams to run the ball and stop the run. My take on that is that if you can’t do it in September and October, you’re not going to be able to pull it off in November.
The stat sheet was a bit more favorable towards ECU against the Cougars.
“As I looked at the end of the game and looked at it on the way back home, the things that jumped out to me in the game were that we had 33 first downs, to their 16 first downs,” said Coach Montgomery at his weekly news conference. “We had 140 yards on RPO’s (run-pass-option), which Gardner [Minshew] did an exceptional job most of the day of getting the ball out. It’s nothing but an extended hand off. Forty-plus minutes of time of possession to 19 minutes and 12-of-22 on third down offensively.”
It reminds me of the quote on statistics from Aaron Levenstein.
“Statistics are like bikinis — what they reveal is suggestive — what they conceal is vital,” he quipped.
What those stats don’t reveal are the explosion plays and the turnovers. When teams score in three or four plays, they won’t collect a bunch of first downs.
“It came down to a few things,” explained Montgomery. “Three turnovers on offense and five plays for 240 yards on defense were the difference in this game. And those turnovers that we talked about directly resulted in 21 points for the team.”
That’s frustrating. What’s even more frustrating is that Montgomery continues to say his Pirates look great during the week, but just don’t execute on Saturday.
The problem is that Saturdays are the only time it matters.
“I think the one thing is we have got to continue to grow our leadership on the team both vocal and active,” said Montgomery. “I think that we have had some of our captains in the lineup, back out of the lineup, whether it is injury or playing, and there has just been no smooth transition of leadership from one guy to the next. I really think that what we have to do to play better is that this is a team that has got to start fast.”
ECU had its best start against Virginia Tech. That turned into a 64-17 loss to the Hokies.
The Pirates also started well at Connecticut and parlayed that into one of the team’s two wins to date.
Gardner Minshew has apparently won back the starting quarterback spot, but Montgomery won’t say for sure.
I think Minshew will be the answer to a great trivia question down the road. He now owns the school record for completions and attempts in a game. Minshew was 52-68 for 463 yards in the loss.
Remember, Minshew didn’t start against Houston.
I look for him to start against Tulane.
I believe ECU can score with anyone. That should keep Saturday night’s contest close, as long as the Pirates don’t turn the football over.
The Pirates also need to find a way to force a turnover. They’ve only had seven all season, ranking 120th in the nation in the category.
The term “winnable game” has become vogue these days in Greenville.
This matchup with Tulane is one of those, as is the Cincinnati game.
The Pirates just have to figure out how to take their practice habits into the games.
They need to hurry, because the season is quickly winding down.
The Pirates are hoping what they reveal and what they conceal can somehow come together and end with success.