East Carolina enters the team’s bye week with a 3-3 record after six games. For a program that has only won three games in each of the last three seasons the improvement is most evident.
Still, there is a long way to go. Thursday night’s loss to Temple was a great example of how far the program still has to go.
“There will be a day where we win those games,” said Pirate coach Mike Houston after the Owls prevailed 27-17. “We will learn to compete.”
Temple beat ECU for the sixth straight time. Last year’s loss in Philadelphia was a blowout. This game was competitive. The Owls just wore down on the smaller Pirates.
One NFL scout told me that Temple had perhaps the best defensive line on the East Coast. That includes the Power 5 schools. The Owls were men among boys at times in the game.
Still, the Pirates under Mike Houston certainly gave Temple a battle, especially early on.
“I loved our energy in the first quarter,” Houston said. “I didn’t like the play at the end of the first half. We just need to learn how to compete all four quarters. I have very little patience for guys holding their head. You have to compete every snap and we are trying to instill that in our program. We had a chance to win against a very good football team.”
The Pirates are halfway to six wins, which could put ECU in the bowl talk from the American. Sources tell me that ECU would have to obtain a waiver to go to a bowl at 6-6, because two of the wins would be over FCS opponents. The second FCS team on the schedule came about because of the problems with Virginia Tech over the hurricane cancellation last year.
Winning games on the back half of the schedule will prove to be difficult.
Coach Houston and company had this past weekend off after the Thursday night loss. They will also be off this coming weekend before traveling to Central Florida in Orlando on October 19th. Beating UCF in Orlando will be extremely difficult.
ECU closes out October with a home game against South Florida. The game against the Bulls is a big key towards getting to that six-win plateau.
The Pirates then host Cincinnati to open the month of November. ECU will close out the regular season with road games at Southern Methodist and Connecticut followed by a home game against Tulsa.
On paper, the most winnable games left are USF, UConn and Tulsa.
The Pirates are .500 halfway thru the season. That’s certainly not where Mike Houston wants to be with his team.
“We are 3-3 and have played better every week,” Houston said. “We did some things very nicely and we reverted some in the loss.”
The Pirates will have to continue to play better each week to have a chance at the postseason.
Regardless of how it plays out, it’s evident that this ECU football team is much improved from a year ago. These Pirates are competitive for the most part in the American.
Houston still needs another recruiting class or two, but I believe he will certainly get it done.
We’ve got half a season to go. Time to take a deep breath and enjoy the weekend off.
Things will get tougher for ECU after the break when play in the AAC continues.