I begin this week coming off of a bad case of the “Bye Week Blues.”
There are much bigger things in life to complain about, I know, but this past weekend was just about a personal case of the football flu.
Friday night was washed out. Almost all of the high school football games were played on Thursday. When your show is called ‘Touchdown Friday,’ the Thursday games take away the excitement of a football Friday night.
Saturday featured lots of college football, but no East Carolina game to cover or at least keep any eye on. Add in the fact that my wife was out of town, and this was quickly becoming a boring weekend.
My favorite NFL team also had a bye for the weekend.
It just wasn’t the same. Football players and coaches are creatures of habit. I guess I fit the same mold. It’s October, and I want my football.
The Pirate football team used the time off to heal up on several fronts.
“We’re coming off a good open week,” said ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery at his weekly news conference on Monday.
“We’re a little bit healthier than we were last week at this time,” he said. “Also, we had a good chance to take a look at a few of the things on defense and offense that we need to get better at and hopefully some of the work that we put in over the last week will help us get past some of that.”
More than time off, the bye week gave new quarterback Holton Ahlers another week to get acclimated to his new job.
“We had a great week of being able to get Holton accustomed to some of the new things in strike zone and red zone plays,” Montgomery said. “It’s been a really good week for him being in the building and coming around. With the leadership that he’s shown over the last two weeks, it has spoken volumes to the staff.”
Ahlers would love nothing more than to lead this Pirate team to an upset win this week over Memphis. You’ll recall the Tigers put it on ECU in a big way last year in the season finale, beating the Pirates 70-13.
It was after that game that Coach Montgomery made his ‘bowl game guarantee’ for 2018. He was asked about that on Monday.
“I think about it every day,” said Montgomery. “ I think about it all the time. This is a huge game. We understood that last time we took the field, it was a huge game. I think that we’re in a lot different situation than we were the last time we took the field. We know a lot more about our quarterback position. Defensively, we’re bringing back some of our defensive secondary. I think about it every day. It’s something we need to get back to, there’s no question.”
There is no question that this Pirate defense is light years better than it was a year ago. Still, the ‘D’ faces a tremendous challenge in this Memphis squad.
“Defensively, we have to do what we’ve been doing and then do it five more plays,” explained Montgomery. “As I look at every game this year, and it’s not just us, it’s defenses everywhere. You go from being a good defense to an elite defense, or an average defense to an elite defense, by five or six plays a game. I think we can go from good to being elite if we can just play sound in the run game.
“I think we got out of our gaps a couple of time and we had a few of those issues before. We’ll fix that. That’s going to get better. We need to stop giving up the big plays on third-down. Third-and-16, third-and-15, third-and-long, we’ve got to be better at it. It’s heartbreaking because our guys are playing well in some situations, but it doesn’t show up because of the big plays there.”
We are on to the home stretch of the 2018 football season. There is plenty of football to be played. The Pirates have shown improvement aplenty.
Now the goal is to transform that improvement into victories on Saturday.