Game week has finally arrived at East Carolina.
Following a second straight 3-9 season the Pirates went to work on righting the ship. Spring practice was moved up a month. A breakfast training table was implemented.
ECU coach Scottie Montgomery greeted the media on Monday for his first weekly press conference by following that timeline.
“I’m really, really happy with where the team is now,” said Montgomery. “We’re coming off the most successful training camp that we’ve had since I’ve been here, not only from a health standpoint but from how we’re playing on the field. We’re on a pursuit of excellence for this football program. I think we’ve checked a lot of the boxes for our program. All of the things that I’ve talked about were the things we talked about with our staff going in to February.
“We needed to check each of these boxes and until we did, we could not move on. Well we’ve checked a lot of the boxes that I’ve talked about today and there’s one final box that we need to check as a football team and that’s our team performance on the field. So, we’re really driven for this season and for these young men. We also have to realize that there will be ups and downs for every season that you have, but we’re just a little bit more equipped to handle it.”
North Carolina A&T comes to town after a 20-17 win over Jacksonville State in the FCS Kickoff Game in Montgomery, Alabama. The Aggies have won 13 games in row, dating back to the FCS playoffs in 2016.
A&T will come to town with plenty of confidence, led by their head coach, Sam Washington.
“They’re a football team,” said Washington when asked about ECU. “They are big and fast and strong. So are we. Just like I said last week, just put the ball down and we’ll see. Just put the ball down.”
While Coach Washington can use the ‘underdog’ role to motivate his team, Montgomery and the Pirates can just think back to last year’s dismantling by James Madison, the last FCS team that played in Greenville.
I don’t think the Aggies are nearly as good as JMU turned out to be. Still, the respect out of the Pirate camp is most genuine.
“We have a big-time game on our hands against a great football program,” said Montgomery. “Sam Washington has done a fantastic job of continuing the culture of football at North Carolina A&T. There’s one thing that I will say about this football program — I have looked at a lot of teams, I have watched a lot of teams for a long time, playing football and coaching football. Their culture of playing hard rivals anyone’s I’ve ever seen on tape.”
It’s the first time that I can remember an ECU opener against a team that had already played. Washington mentioned in his press conference the old adage that teams improve the most between games one and two.
Montgomery didn’t buy into that theory and says he isn’t sure who has the advantage.
“I think it’s half full, half empty,” explained Montgomery. “I think the pros and cons of both of them are pretty simple. The simple way to look at it is the way we have to look at it — is that A&T has got out all the pregame jitters out. They’ve gone through game week and understand what it’s like to get off the bus ready to play.”
“There’s a certain group of people that think the biggest jump happens between week one and week two. I don’t necessarily believe that,” Montgomery continued. “I feel the biggest jump happens between January and August and that’s what we’re concentrating on right now. We’re really trying to focus and be ready for this football team.”
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
I’ll be back on the sidelines for the video board again this season. We’ll have a pregame interview with Coach Montgomery and a special “Pirate Legends” interview after the first quarter. Those legends will also be featured on the ‘Coach Mo Show”. Our first legend this past week was former All-American linebacker Robert Jones.
This week we’ll honor former ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney and former Pirate fullback Vonta Leach.
Game day can’t get here quick enough!