East Carolina football fans went from “ARRGGHH to UUGGGGHHHH” in one bizarre weekend at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Saturday’s weather forecast was for pop up storms in the afternoon with a 40 percent chance of rain. One of those storms hung up about ten miles away from the stadium, forcing several different delays for lightning in the area.
Finally, an hour and 15 minutes after the scheduled kickoff the all clear was given at about 7:15 p.m., and both teams got busy getting set for football.
The new start time was set for 7:47, but as the Pirates got ready to run out onto the field word came that there was even more lightning in the area. Officials tried to stop the team from running out, but it was just a tick too late.
So, as soon as the team came in, they were escorted out. The game would be delayed again. That’s when the really bad stuff rolled in, and by 9 p.m. it was evident there would be no football on this night.
That’s when officials from ECU and N.C. A&T gathered to try to figure out what to do. Several sources confirmed that things were chippy at best, and that the Aggies didn’t want to play on Sunday. Sources said the Pirates rescheduled the game for Sunday at 3:30 p.m. If N.C. A&T didn’t want to play they would have to pay the buyout, believed to be $500,000.
The Aggies were scheduled to receive a check for $300,000 for the game, so cooler heads prevailed and the game was set for Sunday.
Things got even stranger on Sunday. The Aggie captains refused to shake hands with the Pirate captains at the coin flip. One would have thought that incident would fire up the ECU squad.
ECU dominated the stat sheet, especially early in the game. The Pirates were leading 3-0 and had the ball at the 2-yard line with a first and goal.
Pirate quarterback Reid Herring was then picked off by Mac McCain in the back of the end zone. McCain torched the Pirates with at least a 108-yard return for the touchdown. Officially it went down as 100-yards on the return. It was a 14-point turnaround.
The Pirates recovered from that disaster enough to at least have a chance to win the game. Turnovers bit the Pirates again. ECU again had the ball on the two-yard line with a first and goal. The Pirates again went through the air, and almost had that one picked off. On second down Trace Christian fumbled and the Pirates had given away another scoring opportunity.
Still, it was a game that East Carolina could have pulled out of the fire. The Pirates had three possessions when trailing 28-23. They had a punt, they turned it over on downs, and they threw the interception on the final play to come up short.
That final play was especially frustrating.
To set it up, the Pirates had the ball with a 3rd and 6 from the A&T 31-yard line with :33 to play. Herring hit running back Anthony Scott in the flat, but Scott couldn’t keep his feet. He caught the ball and fell down, losing six yards. More than the yardage, he lost precious time. The clock kept ticking down.
The Pirates were obviously confused with the clock winding down. Deondre Farrier went off and his replacement, Leroy Henley ran out. Herring waived Henley off, but Henley ended up at the end of the line of scrimmage.
The Pirates barely got the play off, and Herring fired up the prayer to the right corner of the end zone to Tahj Deans. Deans certainly had a chance to make a play to save the day, but Timadre Abram came up with the ball to preserve the upset.
If you look at the replay, Henley was running down the right sideline all alone. Had Herring thrown the ball more to his right, then Deans and Henley would have both had a shot. Had Herring looked, he would have seen that Henley was wide open with no one following him down the field.
It just wasn’t meant to be. North Carolina A&T had a team that knew how to win. The Pirates are still learning.
The loss stung that much more through social media.
Coach Sam Washington was elated, referring to the payment that ECU would make to his school.
— HBCU Gameday (@HBCUGameday) September 3, 2018
So now the Pirates look to bounce back against rival North Carolina. The Tar Heels lost on the road at Cal Saturday, 24-17. The Pirates were hoping that the Heel’s cross country trip would give them the edge. The Sunday game evened out that playing field.
Turnovers were the difference in the opener. The Pirates were 119th in the nation in turnover margin last year. This year they again start in the hole at -3.
Sunday’s loss to the Aggies will be much more palatable with an ECU win over UNC. The Heels, though, will come to Greenville as a double-digit favorite.
There is also another 40 percent chance of rain on Saturday.
Here’s hoping for a much different weekend next week at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.