CINCINNATI — Within the 56-6 trouncing that East Carolina absorbed at Cincinnati on Friday, the Pirates had a shining moment that prevented a shutout and provided some hope for down the road.
True freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers uncorked a deep ball that sophomore Mydreon Vines hauled in for a 71-yard touchdown, the longest scoring play of the day.
Ahlers played at D.H. Conley and Vines performed at rival J.H. Rose in Pitt County.
“A big part of me coming here is coming here with guys from around the area and from North Carolina to bring ECU football back,” Ahlers said. “He’s worked his tail off. You saw it on that play. He’s one of the fastest guys on the team.”
ECU took advantage of Vines’ wheels.
“It was just a straight go pattern,” Vines said.
Vines, who plays some on special teams, didn’t anticipate leaving Nippert Stadium with his first college TD.
“Very excited,” Vines said. “Really, though, I didn’t expect to get in the game that much. I just came in, did what my coaches told me to do. I executed and I got a touchdown.”
Vines said he and Ahlers weren’t bitter enemies in high school.
“We were rivals in high school, but outside of like playing each other, I would call him up and he would like throw me the ball, like some days we got off,” Vines said
The Bearcats foiled the extra point attempt by wrapping up holder John Young with the ball before the kick attempt. That left the Pirates in a 35-6 hole with 8:13 left in the first half.
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Cincinnati quickly set the tone and delivered some payback for a 48-20 loss in Greenville last year. The Bearcats didn’t dwell on a 38-13 loss at Central Florida last week.
The Pirates won the toss, deferred and kicked off. Cincinnati went 75 yards in eight plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 10-yard pass from Desmond Ridder to Jayshon Jackson with 10:46 left in the first quarter.
Ridder completed five of six on the initial series for 76 yards. Ridder completed 20 of 29 for 335 yards and four touchdowns before turning the offense over to Hayden Moore, who was five for 11 for 59 yards and one score.
ECU’s first series ended with a sack of Ahlers on third down and a punt in a 4th-and-20 situation from the Pirates’ 15-yard line.
Ahlers, who was a mainstay in last week’s win at home against Connecticut, was beset by turnovers before leaving the game in the third quarter with an apparent injury. He was picked off once and had the ball knocked from his grasp for a recovery by the hosts. Another Ahlers bobble on a failed 4th-and-1 in the second quarter was ruled a team fumble.
Ahlers completed eight of 22 for 184 yards. He ran nine times for a net of 21 yards.
Coach Scottie Montgomery said Ahlers didn’t take snaps on Tuesday, but plans to give him a full quota of reps in preparation for a noon kickoff at N.C. State on Dec. 1.
The Wolfpack represent an opportunity for atonement from ECU’s ineffectiveness in its American Athletic Conference finale.
“We can’t come out here and play like that and expect to win a football game,” Ahlers said. “That was an embarrassment. Every player in that locker room, including me, should be embarrassed. We represent ECU on our chests and that’s not ECU football. We have to go back to work. We’re going to figure it out though. We’re not going to back down to anything.
” .. We’ve got the players to make the plays and today we just didn’t.”
Generally, the Bearcats threw early and ran late with leading rusher Michael Warren II missing the game. Cincinnati had a 641-303 advantage in total offense and led 25-12 in first downs. The Bearcats had a 35:49 to 24:10 lead in possession time. Cincy was four for four in the red zone. ECU did not have a snap in the red zone. The Pirates had five turnovers to one for the Bearcats.
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The contest was in sharp contrast to the Pirates’ 55-21 rout of UConn last week on ECU’s own Senior Night. The Bearcats recognized their upperclassmen before improving to 10-2 overall and 6-2 in the league.
ECU (3-8, 1-7 AAC) will need another 180-degree Jekyll and Hyde turn for the second straight week to avoid a whipping at State.
“This game is already in the back of our mind,” Vines said. “We’re focused on N.C. State now.”
Ahlers dispelled any doubt about his physical status when asked if he would play next week.
“Absolutely,” he said.
Archie McBerry says
As Andy said, “What it was was football.” I think.
Dan A. says
Hi Al. Love your work when it comes to Pirate football. Also I’m a firm believer in accenting the positive. However in this case I’ve got to say the headline of this game was an ill prepared football team beaten soundly schematically and physically in every aspect. In my opinion the glimpse of a positive play while great is not headline worthy. I had to listen to the whole game on radio because I was driving home from Turkey Day. Listening to Jeff and Kevin describing the game was difficult and Jeff got it right when he called it a “nightmare.”
Jeff also mentioned how ECU used to thump Cincinnati and we won the first 7 contests in a row. They also said multiple times that Ahlers had to be literally helped up from the ground just about all game. Why in the world would you leave him in as long as they did down that many points with line playing so poorly? He is our future. I know he would want to play but the coach needs to not only think of this year but coming years.
I do believe that we have the players to be competitive but our coaching is just not cutting it. Mo has shown no ability to develop players especially QB considering the two great QB’s he inherited Benkert and Minshew both transferred and had tremendous success. One transfer of a great player is understandable but losing two in two years starts to be a trend. I also understand that the leadership has put our athletic teams in a bind with their current situation. However, ECU has always had things the were challenging but found a way to overcome. We can’t overcome a poor coach. We couldn’t with Thompson and we can’t now with Mo.
Irish Spectre says
To blame Benkert’s transfer on Montgomery before he coached a single game at ECU doesn’t seem to make much sense. Minshew is admittedly another story. …as is Coach’s 9-26 record to date. …as is the embarrassment factor in a number of those losses, including yesterday and at Temple earlier this year.
It’s not just all the losing, it also the cycle that they’re in now of sowing a little bit of hope after a rare win (e.g,, vs. UConn last week), or at least a respectable showing (e.g., vs. USF), and then crushing it all in one horrendous performance.
What a mess. I’m not saying Montgomery needs to be fired (yet), but nor am I arguing against those who are, but even if the university wants to make that call, there’s no AD in place to do it; ECU seems unable to get anything right these days!
Dan A. says
Excellent points. I’m not blaming Benkerts transfer on Coach Mo it’s just that if he was the motivator and offensive guru we need I think Benkert might have stayed. Especially because offensively we still had Zay Jones. Also with Minshew he knew some serious competition was coming in but if our program was where it needed to be he would have stayed and we could’ve red shirted Ahlers and have him develop more naturally. I just listened to Coach Logan on WRAL and whether you like him or not he has a very high football IQ. He spoke about the perfect storm we are in at ECU. We really don’t have stability at any phase of the university. Rumors of chancellor leaving, no AD, and a coach on the hot seat. This makes getting a quality Coach really difficult right now. Good coach’s want to be hired by an AD and have a strong group at the top. Currently at every level we are unstable. As he put it the pool of quality potential coach’s that will look at ECU currently is much less because of our situation. Which unfortunately leads me to a new thought. We need to punt. Get our house in order from AD and chancellor positions. Get a new OC because our current one is vanilla and ride one more year with Coach mo. Hope he recruits well again because I do think he can do that well. It really is a mess but timing is everything and currently it just not the best time to attract the best coach for long term success at ECU.
Irish Spectre says
I’m not an ECU alum and don’t know the “inside baseball”, but, yes, things are more dire than I’d realized, to Coach’s advantage. I agree w/ what you’re saying generally, including the part about him seeming to be a decent recruiter, so give him one more year, w/ the understanding that under no circumstances can he stay longer absent a bowl.
As I’ve said before, he MUST do something about that OL; of many weaknesses, the OL is the biggest one, and jeopardizes the team’s biggest asset, Ahlers. (The secondary is a big problem, too!)
And I say fire him on December 2nd the day after the next likely humiliation. I’ve seen no real improvement on the field and nothing but apathy off of it. Most of my old friends are going to tailgate in Raleigh but are not planning enter the stadium. I saw the last act of Thompson vs NCSt in Charlotte it was ugly and infuriating to see in person. No one thought another year of that was a good idea. Skip Holtz came in the next season and brought immediate turnaround and fresh hope ensued. You don’t continue driving a totaled car because you still owe money on it, you get a new one or at least a better used one. He’s no Pirate and we all know it. He’s never acted like or talked like one. It’s time for him to walk the plank!