While Pirate Nation celebrated its past, the Pirate of the future paved the way to a big, 55-21 Senior Night win over visiting Connecticut Saturday night.
Holton Ahlers is the future. East Carolina’s true freshman quarterback led the Pirates to a season-high 657 yards of offense in the win. Ahlers also accounted for five touchdowns. He was solely responsible for 372 yards of offense and was named the American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
Senior defensive end Nate Harvey turned the night into a record-setting one. Harvey picked up his second conference Defensive Player of the Week honor of the season after establishing new single-season ECU and AAC records in Tackles for Loss with three against the Huskies to push his yearly total to 24. Harvey broke Chris Moore’s ECU mark of 21.0 with a five-yard sack in the second quarter and surpassed Houston star Ed Oliver’s AAC standard of 23.0 with a six-yard sack in the third frame.
Harvey hopes to walk with the seniors again next year on Senior Night. ECU is planning to appeal for an extra year for Harvey, who only played a few plays in his first season at Georgia Military College.
Senior offensive lineman Garrett McGhin perhaps said it best.
“It was really fun for us, as seniors, to be a part of this night with all of these young players playing so well,” said McGhin. “ It was a lot of fun out there.”
Ahlers and Harvey are both great stories.
Holton was the highly-touted local kid who failed to win the starting job through both spring and fall camp. In fact, Ahlers started the year as the third-string quarterback.
Once he got a taste, Ahlers excelled beyond anyone’s expectations. He seems to get better and better each and every time out.
“Last week, I thought that he did a much better job of anticipatory throws,” said Pirate coach Scottie Montgomery at his weekly news conference. “The ball that he threw to Trevon Brown in the back of the end zone was his best throw yet as a college player. It was anticipatory. He worked the backside safety by holding him off just long enough. He let the middle clear and then threw it right over the backer’s head to the back of the end zone where the only person that could catch it was Trevon. So, we’ve seen a great progression from him.”
Harvey has had one of the best defensive seasons ever seen at ECU. The former fifth-string running back has flourished on the defensive side of the football.
“I just love it,” said Harvey after Saturday night’s win. “I’ve been working on some new moves to get to the quarterback, and they worked tonight.”
“Defensively, you have to say that we’re anchored right now by Nate Harvey,” said Montgomery. “He is in a record-setting mode, there’s no question about it. He did a great job for us and for that, he’s the defensive player of the week in our conference. So, we had the offensive and defensive players of the week in the conference. That makes you feel good about guys playing well together.”
The Pirates did indeed play well together against the Huskies. Now the trick is to parlay that success into two wins to close out the season.
First up is an angry Cincinnati team that fell to Central Florida last week, ending their shot at an American championship.
The Bearcats are especially tough on defense.
“We’re going against a team that plays outstanding defense,” continued Montgomery. “I think there have only been two teams that have been able to get 400 yards on them and they’ve had to work for everything they get. This week is going to be about how we’re going to have to get two-, three-, or four-yard gains. Keep the chains together and then when we get a chance to get a one-on-one opportunity, we’re going to have to hit it.”
It’s two road games to finish up the season. The Pirates head to Cincinnati on a short week and then conclude their season at North Carolina State on December 1st.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving and save some pie for Friday afternoon’s game on the CBS Sports Network.