NORFOLK, VA — East Carolina ended a 10-game losing streak on the road with a 24-21 victory over Old Dominion on Saturday night at S.B. Ballard Stadium to head into a short week with the confidence of a 2-game winning streak.
The Pirates host Temple on Thursday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN. It will be a black-out night at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
ECU (3-2) wore all purple in taking its first win away from home since topping Connecticut 41-38 on Sept. 24, 2017.
“A road win, right?” said first-year Pirates coach Mike Houston after equaling the win total for each of the last three seasons. “Somebody told me those didn’t happen around here.”
Blocked punts for touchdowns and long bombs have been rarities for ECU, too, but both contributed to a follow up of a 37-35 conquest of the Monarchs in Greenville last season.
With the score tied at 3, Warren Saba blocked a put and took it into the end zone from 4 yards out. The special teams highlight gave the Pirates a 10-3 lead with 3:06 left in the first quarter and ECU led the rest of the way.
Saba said the Pirates had been working on the punt block.
“It was a good game plan,” Saba said. “We worked on it all week. We executed it. We practiced it during the week and got the same look today. I went and did what I had to do.”
On ECU’s next possession, Holton Ahlers found Blake Proehl for a 72-yard touchdown and a 17-3 lead with 12:21 left in the first half.
“We’ve been waiting to go deep a little too long, but we pulled the trigger and executed it,” Proehl said. “We saw on film that the safety would come down a lot, so we said we were going to take a shot during the game.”
The Pirates led 17-3 at the half.
The hosts closed the gap to 17-13 before ECU moved 75 yards to go ahead, 24-13 in the fourth quarter. The drive included a 21-yard pass from Ahlers to his former D.H. Conley teammate C.J. Johnson. Tyler Snead had a 20-yard run that was partially nullified by a holding call.
On a 3rd-and-5, Proehl pulled down a tightly-defended pass for 28 yards to the ODU 11. The Pirates got into the end zone on a 5-yard shovel pass to tight end Anthony Watley with 10:36 left to play.
The drive provided the margin of victory as the Monarchs pulled within 24-21 following a 45-yard completion from Stone Smartt to Nigel Fitzgerald to the ECU 1. Kesean Strong ran for the TD and the 2-point conversion with 2:13 to go.
Johnson recovered the ensuing onside kick and the Pirates ran out the clock.
Jake Verity, who ended the scoring in Greenville last year against the Monarchs with a decisive 38-yard field goal with 46 seconds left, started the scoring on Saturday night with a 29-yard boot for a 3-0 lead with 11:59 left in the first quarter.
ECU finished with a 309-293 lead in total yardage.
“We wanted to play relentless and just have fun and execute our assignments,” said defensive end Kendall Futrell, who was in on seven tackles and had three sacks for the Pirates. “it was a great team win all-around.”
Linebacker Bruce Bivens came away with the ball with ODU on the verge of scoring late in the first half. Gerard Stringer and Ja’Quan McMillian had second-half interceptions for ECU.
The win energized the Pirates as they prepare to return to American Athletic Conference play against a team they have never beaten in a league game.
Temple (3-1) will be coming off a 24-2 win over Georgia Tech in Philadelphia on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets (1-3) are in their first year under Geoff Collins, who previously coached the Owls.
“It can different,” Saba said of the pending matchup. “This whole season can be different.”
Despite the shorter week, Houston said the winners dinner would still be on for Sunday night in Harvey Hall of the Murphy Center.
“We may put some extra fudge on the ice cream bar,” said the ECU coach.
Ahlers and many of his teammates had not had a winning trip home since their high school days.
“Not any more,” said the sophomore quarterback.
“It’s going to be a good bus ride back home,” Proehl said.