For a single afternoon, all was right with Pirate Nation.
The East Carolina Pirates were playing offense and defense like we haven’t really seen all season against an outmanned Cincinnati team.
This Pirate team played with fight. They played with heart. They played like winners and came away with a 48-20 win on Senior Day.
Do you ever wonder if guys really get up for Senior Day?
Just ask Davon Grayson, who tweaked his back in warm ups and couldn’t play on Saturday.
“Davon literally cried for most of the game,” ECU wide receivers coach Keith Gaither told me for my weekly radio show on Pirate Radio 1250 & 930. “He wanted to play that badly.”
I wrote about my fondness for Davon last week. He is a class act and has overcome so much as a Pirate.
Ask Jimmy Williams what his Senior Day meant. He showed all of us when he took a little interior pass from Gardner Minshew and carried most of the Bearcat defense the final five yards for the touchdown to help set the tone for Saturday’s blowout win.
That’s what Senior Day meant to Jimmy Williams.
For Pirate fans, it at least temporarily erased some of the bad taste of this 3-8 football season to date.
That win over Cincinnati makes Saturday’s season-ending matchup with Memphis even more important. The entire city of Greenville felt a little better after the victory. Pirate Nation now wants to see more fight and a more competitive team against Memphis to close out the season.
“I think so and I think it is always important to finish,” said second year Coach Scottie Montgomery at his weekly news conference. “This is a good chance for us. I think we are climbing in our conference now with the people we are playing against. I can see our level of play catching up and getting to the level of some of our other conference opponents, but this is one of the highest levels and it’s good that we have this test at the end of the year.”
Montgomery didn’t stop at that.
“Our guys are fired up for it,” he continued. “We’ve got a quarterback playing well, some of our young receivers playing really well, our offensive line is starting to play a little bit better and our running back game is changing and getting better. Defensively, we held a team to 300 yards, so I think it is important that we play well despite who we play.”
That’s the issue this week. If Coach Montgomery and his squad can at least play a competitive game, I think it will go a long way towards looking at a brighter future for many. If the game goes south early, then Montgomery and company will be left with months to think about a second straight 3-9 season, this time where 8 of the 9 losses were blowouts.
“It’s a big opportunity,” continued Montgomery. “For us, that was the last time this group got to play together in Greenville and this is the last time this team gets to play together, period. They’re excited, their practice is going to be great and we are going to do some different things in practice to get some of our younger players involved.”
It’s also a different kind of week. Students will be out for the holiday soon and the campus will have a much different feel.
Thanksgiving is a holiday for families, and it’s especially family-like for a football team set to wrap up its season.
“We are very thankful for the ability to play again,” said Montgomery. “Just being thankful in the week that we have here, Thanksgiving week, it will be a lot of emotion connected to that, but this will be a week where we really try to go out and play our best game of the year, which will be topping the one that we just played.”
A great effort this week would be the icing on the cake to end the season. Or make that the big scoop of whipped cream on that pumpkin pie!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.