The East Carolina Pirates delivered in Coach Scottie Montgomery‘s first big game against local rival NC State.
The East Carolina Pirates needed a statement game. It is the first year of a head coach’s tenure and the team was already 1-0 on the season. Why would they need a statement game? Sometimes you figure out you needed one when you get one.
The NC State Wolfpack came rolling into Greenville and represented the only shot the Pirates were going to get at one of their Tobacco Road brothers this year. State had showed its interest in running the ball against William and Mary the week before. The Pirates defense was relatively untested in a win over Western Carolina.
In the end this game was little defense on either side. There were three turnovers including an interception from Pirates quarterback Philip Nelson, but this game belonged to the offenses. There were three missed kicks, meaning that the 33-30 final score could easily have been a 36-36 game going into the overtime that the game deserved but no Pirates fans wanted. A couple of missed conversions were baked into that score as well.
The Pirates jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first half. They remembered that James Summers can run a little bit and got loose for twenty-seven yards and a score. That lead expanded to 12-0 with another Davis Plowman kick early in the second quarter.
State responded by waking up its running game and sending Reggie Gallaspy on his own thirty-seven yard odyssey to the end zone. Then they punched in Jaylen Samuels from five yards out for a 13-12 lead. By this point ECU had missed an extra point and State had failed a two point conversion.
The half ended with a pair of bang bang pass plays. First Nelson hit running back Anthony Scott on a play that saw Scott rumble twenty-five yards to the end zone. State responded just thirty seconds later with an eighty yard touchdown pass to Stephen Louis. Halftime fell with a pretty even 20-19 game.
The third quarter saw the Pirates start to turn the game in their favor again as they traded a State field goal for another touchdown run from Summers. That resulted in a 26-23 Pirate lead entering the final quarter of the game and suggested a dramatic finish was soon to follow.
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State struck first with quarterback Ryan Finley using his legs to get the go ahead score for the Wolfpack. The next ECU drive was a grueling 7:15, but the Pirates worked the ball down the field. With just under six minutes to go, Scott popped into the end zone from five yards out. The Pirates made that 33-30 lead stand for the remainder of the game.
Pirates fans should be much more comfortable with Nelson now. The quarterback was pretty efficient with 297 passing yards with better than 75% completion percentage. Three runners got work and six receivers saw the ball over the course of the game. Isaiah Jones (going by Zay Jones now, apparently) had seven catches for seventy-three yards and didn’t lead the team. That honor went to Quay Johnson.
Next week the Pirates get to face a very human-looking South Carolina team, so maybe the big victories are not done just yet. Coach Scottie Montgomery could have a whole cult of believers if he could hold victories over both Wolfpack and Gamecocks in his first season.