East Carolina struggled offensively in a 22-17 loss to South Florida on
Saturday night. No first downs in the first half is not representative
of the system Lincoln Riley brought to the Pirates from Texas Tech as
offensive coordinator under Ruffin McNeill in 2010.
ECU averaged 533 yards of
offense per game last season. Riley, quarterback Shane Carden, receiver
Justin Hardy and running back Breon Allen are no longer around and
that's a lot to overcome.
Still, there was a belief
that the program had the ability from recruiting and developing depth
through position competition to withstand such personnel losses.
A preseason injury to
projected starting quarterback Kurt Benkert began what has been a
downward spiral in offensive production.
The low ebb may have been
the first half against the Bulls.
Total yardage after 30
minutes favored South Florida, 277-29.
The fans who were booing at
the break might have been wondering what happened to the two-quarterback
system that the Pirates were extolling a month ago when Blake Kemp and
James Summers were both taking snaps.
The decision was made to
play Summers exclusively against South Florida. While the offense
obviously struggled, Summers stayed in.
"Coach (Dave) Nichol
(first-year offensive coordinator) and I felt with this offense you've
got to let them see the looks and that's the patient part," McNeill
said. "We talked about no hesitation all week long, and that's what we
told James: 'Do not hesitate to make mistakes. Let it go. Swing your
sword. Fire it. It's not ready, aim, fire. It's fire.'
"We saw glimpses of that in
the second half. We've got to get him the reps and he's got to see to
USF finished with a 442-220
lead in total yardage. ECU managed eight first downs after intermission.
Summers has athleticism but
doesn't appear to go through a progression of reads before opting to run
often times on pass calls. Breakdowns in protection due to injuries on
the offensive front may be a factor. Summers completed 14 of 22 throws
for 158 yards against the Bulls. Bryce Williams had six catches for 85
yards. Summers led the rushing with 20 keepers for 42 yards and both ECU
The Pirates appear to be
trying to get their personnel to fit a system to a degree rather than
adapting the scheme to fit the limitations and abilities of available
Buying experience for a
quarterback was pretty expensive against USF as ECU slipped to 4-6
overall and 2-4 in the American Athletic Conference. The 17-point total
was a high in a three-game losing streak for the Pirates.
No first downs in a half of
play is incredible.
"That's not us," McNeill
said. "We've been here five years and set all kinds of offensive
records. We're used to scoring a lot of points and our defense depends
on that. James everybody be patient with him. He's getting reps under
"I was disappointed. We
practiced extremely well this week and I expected us to have a really
Worth Gregory was the
special teams star as he punted nine times for an average of 44.6 yards
with a longest of 73 yards.
Middle linebackers Zeek
Bigger and Jordan Williams led the Pirates with 12 and 10 tackles,
respectively. Defensive lineman Fred Presley forced a fumble that
Yiannis Bowden recovered at the USF 7-yard line to set up the first
touchdown for the Pirates.
Rain and wet field
conditions made for less than ideal playing conditions and limited
actual attendance. A crowd of 45,194 was announced for Military
Appreciation Day, which included tickets distributed for the occasion.
The defense did its part to
keep ECU in the game for most of the way but a breakdown in coverage led
to a 67-yard pass from Quinton Flowers to Rodney Adams with 4:40 left
for the deciding touchdown.
A personal foul penalty on
ECU's Josh Hawkins gave USF (5-4, 3-2) a first down on its final
possession and hurt the Pirates' chances of getting the ball back with
sufficient time for a drive.
McNeill called the
infraction for a late hit out of bounds deep in Bulls territory
ECU started its last series
at its 29 with 51 seconds to go. The game ended with Summers sacked at
The Pirates must regroup
after finally getting a bye week before a visit to Central Florida (0-9,
0-5) on Thursday, Nov. 19. Practice resumes Wednesday, Nov. 11.
"We've got two games left
at Central Florida and Cincinnati here (Nov. 28) to become bowl
eligible," McNeill said. "That's what our focus is right now."