East Carolina departed from the routine of a Saturday game week in preparation for its American Athletic Conference matchup at Cincinnati on Friday at 3:30 p.m.
“We basically lost the Monday, which is really critical for recovery time for our guys,” Pirates coach Scottie Montgomery said. ” … That’s the day that it takes out. It’s also a game-planning day.”
ECU defeated Connecticut 55-21 on Senior Night for ECU on Saturday.
“We got home late after the game on Saturday, but we had to turn around and come in really early on Sunday morning because Sunday had to really stand in for Sunday and Monday for the coaches,” Montgomery said. “The players, we gave them Sunday as the day off the field. They still had to come in and lift and run to get the soreness out from the night before but we didn’t take them on the field.
“And then Monday, we jumped right in to a Tuesday schedule. So we really had a condensed Sunday and Monday to do it in one day. That was the biggest deal. I know that the coaches and players are probably all a little fatigued. Physically, we can take it off the players a little bit because school is not in on Wednesday and Thursday. We’ll get them more rest on those days.
‘Mentally, we’re pretty sharp right now. Had a great day of work (Tuesday). Really sharp, mentally. Physically, we’ve just got to get everybody back and ready to go for this week.”
Avoiding repeat of history
The Pirates took a 48-20 win over the Bearcats last year on Senior Day before absorbing a 70-13 loss at Memphis. Montgomery was asked what was important in avoiding a similar scenario this year.
“Leadership,” Montgomery said. “Schematically, we’re a lot better on defense. You’ve got to be able to take your defense on the road. Our defense has grown quite a bit since then. We’re not in the same place. At the quarterback position, we are a lot more firm. Our leadership at that position has grown. I really can’t wait to see (Holton Ahlers’) continuing development. Two things, we’ve got to get off the plane with our defense. That’s always a challenge when you’re playing on the road. You’ve got to take care of the ball and the guy who touches the ball more than anybody outside of the center is the quarterback.”
The timing of this week’s game means adjustments for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“We travel on Thursday,” Montgomery said earlier this week. “It’s a big travel day, getting to the hotel and everything. What we’ll do is we’ll have a big (meal) Wednesday with the team. We’ll have a big Thanksgiving meal here in Harvey Hall. We’ll spend great time. We’ll have some sharing during that time.
“Thursday, we’ll go to Cincinnati. We’ll still have another meal there but it won’t be a Greenville Thanksgiving, if you will. We’ll have a devotional time there and Chuck (Young, team chaplain) will be there with us. We’ll make sure that we get to talk about the things that we’re thankful for. That’s the way that we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving this year.”
Extra day of prep for last game
ECU (3-7, 1-6 AAC) closes its season at N.C. State on Saturday, Dec. 1 at noon. The Pirates will regain a day of preparation before the trip to Raleigh.
“We really haven’t gotten into it too much, but we’ve got to find a way to give our players a day off after the game — completely off, no lifting, no running, because it’s been a hard cycle for them in the last two weeks,” Montgomery said. “Then we’ll get right back on it. We’ll treat Sunday as Sunday. The coaches, of course, will have to do what they have to do on Saturday. We’d like to give the players an opportunity to get all the treatment they can get and not put any pounding on their bodies on one of those days. We’ve already got that set for next week.”
Redshirt freshman Trace Christian had 13 carries for 102 yards with a touchdown against UConn.
“We’re going to have to give him opportunities,” Montgomery said. “We had planned last week to start giving him more opportunities. Darius Pinnix, not because he got hurt but because we had some different packages for Darius at the quarterback position that allow him to potentially run the ball and read and do some other things to be able to take some of the runs away from Holton. Unfortunately, Darius sprained his ankle and we lost that package, but we were able to continue to give an opportunity to Trace, Anthony Scott and also Hussein Howe. We look forward. (Christian) will be in the rotation.”
True freshman Tyler Snead had six catches for 62 yards with three scores against the Huskies. Snead, who played at Millbrook, is listed at 5-feet-7 and 166 pounds.
“The recruiting process for him, I mean he could have went a lot of places,” Montgomery said. “He could have went to several Power Five schools in the same regard that we recruited him. He chose us. Our offensive staff did a good job of evaluating him. He was an invited walk-on, but he understood if he did what was right in coming here he would have an opportunity to be a scholarship player.
“Strength was one thing, coming in, he had to really work on. He was strong in his lower body. He needed to get stronger in his upper body. We’re still working on him with that. And then, understanding of the offense. He quickly got portions of the offense, but we wanted to be able to use him as a true slot. Slot is the hardest position to learn at receiver because there’s so many adjustments and routes. … He did a great job blocking in this game. You’ve have to understand who you’re blocking, whether it’s the wheel back or whether it’s the safety, whether you’re going out on the corner depending on the run scheme. The learning of the position is really, really tough for the slot.
“The outside receivers, it’s pretty easy to learn the outside position, but the inside position comes with all the detail. Most of the time, you’re the hot receiver or you’re the guy who’s adjusting the routes. If you don’t adjust correctly, the quarterback could get hit. He’s done a good job of adjusting.”
Keys this week
Defense will be a key as the Pirates seek back-to-back wins.
“First thing, we’ve got to be able to get off the plane and the bus with our defense,” Montgomery said. “Our defense has got to do a good job of stopping the run. Once again, it seems like that’s said a lot but it’s been what we’ve hung our hat on, trying to get that run stopped and continuing to let or defensive ends get to the quarterback.
“We’ve got to hit this quarterback (Desmond Ridder). We think we can get to him, but we’ve got to hit him and get him on the ground. If you let him run around. he can hurt you with his feet. He can hurt you with his arm. He’s the key. We’ve got to get him contained. A lot like last week, I thought we did a good job containing (David) Pindell.
“Then, offensively, we can’t be afraid to get to 2nd-and-7 and 2nd-and-6. You don’t always have to get touchdowns or first downs on first down. We’ve got to get Holton to a point where he’s 3rd and medium. If we get him to third and medium, I think we’ve got a good chance of executing.
“We’ve got to keep Jake (Verity, placekicker) hot. If we get chances to get points, we’ve got to have Jake go get them if we can’t go get touchdowns. Every time we get an opportunity to get points, we’ve got to be able to get points.”