Mike Houston: “Obviously, it’s not what any of us wanted for the way we ended the season. It’s not how we want to go out and represent East Carolina University.”
With that, year one of the Mike Houston coaching era at East Carolina came to a close.
This first year ended on a sour note, a 49-24 loss to a Tulsa Golden Hurricane team that came to Greenville with very little to play for.
I really thought the team that wanted it more would win the football game. That team turned out to be the one that traveled across the country on this holiday weekend.
Black Friday turned into ‘dismal Saturday’ for the Pirates.
While the Pirate offense struggled early it was the ECU defense that gift wrapped a couple of big plays for Tulsa early that helped the Golden Hurricane roll to a blowout win.
“You’re disappointed because you have high expectations and that’s maybe the difference in where we are today versus where we were a year ago,” said Houston. “We expect to go out there and compete at a high level against anybody in this league. We made way too many mistakes today in order to do that. It’s one of those things that you don’t get another week to correct those mistakes and get ready for another game.
“There is a lot of finality to today’s game.”
That finality started with the 16 ECU seniors that were honored before the game. That group hopes to someday look back and think they were part of the big turnaround for Pirate football.
“Coach Houston is definitely the man for the job,” said Pirate senior Alex Turner. “He has changed the culture with this program and I think the future is bright.”
Turner has been one of my favorite Pirates over the last couple of years. He’s made two trips to Newport, RI, for the annual American Athletic Conference media days. He has a great personality and has certainly used his time at ECU in the most positive of ways.
Turner is double-majoring in psychology and multidisciplinary studies (neuroscience). He has a 3.6 cumulative GPA and he is expected to graduate this month. His postgraduate study is set for PhD Medical School.
Houston was especially upset that his team wasn’t able to send the senior class off with a victory.
“Well, I am disappointed for them because you want so much more for them as they leave the program,” said Houston. “That’s a group that worked really hard over the last year to try to change the direction of everything here and it is a group that has invested so much in this program. The program has changed so much in the last year. Nobody wants to hear that today, but that’s just the reality.
“That group, when they look back on this, they will know that they were a positive part of getting the program headed back in an upward direction.”
Houston has said on a number of occasions that the American Athletic Conference is a ‘big boy’ league. This year it seemed like Houston’s Pirates were boys playing a man’s game. The coach seemed to agree in his final press gathering for the regular season.
“I feel good about the culture in the locker room,” Houston said. “I am disappointed in the way we competed today. At the same time sometimes, I look up and there are so many freshmen in the huddle and the reality is we are playing against much older kids. So, we have to continue to do a great job of developing our young kids. We’ve got to recruit and we’ve got to continue to grow the program.
We have said it many times — it didn’t get this way overnight and it’s not going to get fixed overnight. It’s going to take time to get the program back where we all want it to be.”
One year ago Houston hit the ground running when he was hired. Year one of the Mike Houston era was barely in the books when he announced his immediate plans.
“We meet tomorrow morning and leave tomorrow,” Houston said. “We have a recruiting dinner tonight with some recruits that are in town this weekend. It’s a lot of work. We have to go get started for next year.”
Next year kicked off when the clock hit triple zeros in the 2019 season finale.