There are certain games on the schedule that are “must-win” games.
William & Mary fit that bill on Saturday night.
For East Carolina to have any hopes of a winning season and a possible bowl game, this ECU team had to find a way to get past a stubborn bunch from Williamsburg.
It wasn’t pretty at times, but it was a win. The Pirates utilized four Jake Verity field goals in the 19-7 victory. Verity was honored on Monday as the Special Teams Player of the Week in the American Athletic Conference.
“We got to win games like this, tight ball game — I knew it would be tight,” said Pirate coach Mike Houston afterwards. “They are a quality program and our guys competed. We have a million things to fix, but our guys came in and made plays when they needed to.”
Coaches always say the next game on their schedule is the biggest. ECU’s matchup with Old Dominion this week certainly qualifies.
So, make this back-to-back ‘must-win games’ if this team wants to achieve some of the goals it began fall camp with.
The Pirates came from behind to edge the Monarchs a year ago on a last-minute field goal by Verity.
The key to more success may be up front. The Pirates have to run the football to be successful. Trace Christian and Tay Williams both gave the Pirates a big push with Darius Pinnix still sidelined with his injury.
“That’s two kids who haven’t exactly had the easiest path to get here,” said Houston. “They persevered and kept working. They got their chances and now they are taking advantage of those chances. I love stories like that.”
Next up is the road tilt two hours to the north at ODU.
The Monarchs have former ECU defensive coordinator David Blackwell as their defensive coordinator now.
Blackwell joined me this week on my weekly radio show on Pirate Radio 1250 and 930.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Blackwell when I asked him about this week’s game. “We are living in Chesapeake, about 9 miles from the North Carolina border. My wife has come down to take my son to see some friends a couple of times, so it feels like we’re not that far away.”
The Monarchs’ defense allowed the fewest total yards against a Top 25-ranked team in their 28-17 loss at No. 21 Virginia last Saturday.
Coach Houston knows all about Blackwell’s ties to East Carolina.
“Saturday night, I’m sure he is going to try to whip our rear ends because he is a competitor,” said Houston.
With Monday’s news that the ECU-Virginia Tech series was mutually cancelled by both parties, ODU would make a great replacement.
The Monarchs are college football’s winningest start-up program. They have struggled somewhat of late, but they have a great fan base and play in a new stadium.
Plus, it’s just a short ride to the north. I have traveled that road hundreds of times in my career at WNCT-TV.
It’s the self-proclaimed “Brian Bailey Bowl” this week. It’s my alma mater hosting the school I have covered for 35 years.
I’m looking forward to seeing lots of friends and looking forward to what should be a great football game.
We’ll see you at S.B. Ballard Stadium for the Pirates and the Monarchs.