GREENVILLE — As a Football Championship Subdivision program, Campbell has 63 scholarships. East Carolina, which competes in the Football Bowl Subdivision, has 85 grants.
That disparity was a factor as ECU’s depth and talent helped the Pirates to a 49-10 win at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday night.
To the Camels credit, they didn’t just show up and go through the motions to get their financial guarantee.
ECU (2-1) had to overcome deficits of 3-0 and 10-7 before the Pirates began to steadily distance themselves from the Buies Creek bunch.
“You can kind of see what kept me up all week, Hajj-Malik Williams,” said Pirates coach Mike Houston. “He’s an incredible athlete.”
Williams was the first run-throw quarterback ECU had faced this season. He completed 23 of 38 for 300 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Williams connected with Jalen Kelsey on a 61-yard touchdown pass with 5:01 left in the first quarter for a 10-7 Camels lead.
“We missed a tackle on a hitch route,” Houston said.
Campbell (1-2) fell to 0-10 all-time against FBS opponents since the program resumed in 2008 after a 58-year dormancy.
ECU went ahead to stay on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Holton Ahlers to Ryan Jones as the Pirates created a play-action flow to the left that left Jones unattended after releasing underneath to the right with 12:40 remaining in the first half. The 6-play drive covering 84 yards gave ECU a 14-10 lead.
Ahlers became the American Athletic Conference career leader in passing yards as his total moved to 11,019. Ahlers went ahead of Shane Carden for most total yards in school history with 12,332.
“Those records mean a lot,” Ahlers said. “A lot of people contributed to that.”
Keaton Mitchell had another monster game with 13 carries for 185 yards and one TD. It was the eighth 100-yard rushing game of his career.
The Camels took the opening kickoff after the Pirates deferred and drove for a 3-0 lead on a 31-yard field goal by Caleb Dowden with 9:43 left in the first quarter.
ECU answered with an 18-yard scoring run by Mitchell with 6:17 left in the first to lead 7-3.
The Pirate defense did not allow a point over the final 50 minutes.
Isaiah Winstead had six catches for 112 yards. C.J. Johnson finished with five receptions for 91 yards. Johnson caught a 23-yard TD from Ahlers, his former D.H. Conley teammate, that gave ECU a 21-10 lead at the half. Johnson was initially ruled out of bounds, but the call was reviewed and overturned.
Offensive production in the second half included a 28-yard TD pass to Georgia transfer Jaylen Johnson, a 2-yard scoring keeper by Ahlers and runs to paydirt of 17 yards and 1 yard by Rahjai Harris.
ECU has turned in five straight halves without a turnover. The hosts had just one penalty for five yards and were 5-for-5 on red zone opportunities.
Sophomore safety Teagan Wilk led the Pirates in tackles with nine, including five solo stops and one tackle for loss. Chance Bates had a pick in the third quarter for ECU.
Houston got playing time for backup quarterback Mason Garcia and promising freshman running back Marlon Gunn Jr. Garcia completed 5 of 9 for 39 yards and Gunn carried five times for 40 yards.
Navy is next up for the Pirates in ECU’s American Athletic Conference opener at home on Saturday at 6 p.m. The Midshipmen are 0-2 overall and have had an open date since a 37-13 AAC loss at home to Memphis on Sept. 10.
Houston said the Pirates have been preparing for Navy’s seldom-seen option offense on Sunday nights.