Despite defensive progress in the second half, the East Carolina University football team (0-2, 0-1 AAC) could not achieve an offensive rhythm against Georgia State University (1-1, 0-1 SBC) and lost 49-29 in the first road game of the season.
Head coach Mike Houston and the Pirates lost their second game in a row today, while Georgia State University picked up its first win of the season. All of the Pirate scores came from defense and special teams. Offensively, the team struggled in almost every category and failed to score a single offensive touchdown.
“Very disappointed in the loss,” Houston said in the post game press conference. “They (GSU) were exactly the team that I thought they were. Hats off to them, they’ve done a great job building that program. They looked like a very experienced group… Obviously we did not handle that atmosphere and handling them very well in the first half and got ourselves in a pretty big hole.”
The first half of the game showed little success for the Pirates, but an interception thrown by the Panther’s redshirt freshman quarterback Cornelious Brown IV on the first play of the game was returned for a touchdown by ECU senior defensive back Warren Saba to give the Pirates a 7-0 lead. This was the only touchdown scored by ECU in the first half.
ECU’s defense spent the remainder of the first half having continued difficulties with the Panthers. Brown threw two touchdowns to redshirt sophomore receiver Sam Pinckney and one to redshirt freshman receiver Jamari Thrash. Pinckney had 117 receiving yards in the first half, which led his team and the game.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a couple times and it put us behind the eight ball,” Saba said. “We eliminate mistakes, as you guys can see, we are one of the best defences out here. So go back into this week, eliminate mistakes here and let’s just play football.”
Two more first half touchdowns came from the Panthers running backs group. Junior running back Destin Coates and junior running back Tucker Gregg each had a rushing touchdown in the first half.
The first four drives of the game for the Pirates resulted in punts before senior kicker Jake Verity kicked a field goal as the first offensive score of the day. The next drive resulted in an interception thrown by junior quarterback Holton Ahlers. The Pirates kicked another field goal, which brought the first half to a close with a score of 35-13 in the favor of GSU.
With the first drive of the second half, ECU quickly went three and out and punted the ball. The defensive side forced back-to-back turnovers. Brown threw it away, for his second interception of the game, to Pirate sophomore defensive back Jaquan McMillian who picked it off in the endzone, and on the following defensive drive, junior linebacker Xavier Smith recovered a fumble from Coates.
“In the second half, we handled the speed of their (GSU) offensive line better,” Houston said. “A couple of plays, we were just there to make the play and couldn’t quite make the play, but for the most part, the second half played fairly decent defensively.”
The Pirate offense continued to fall flat throughout the game which resulted in two additional turnovers. Ahlers threw two more interceptions, this time picked off by the Panthers junior cornerback Quavian White and redshirt freshman safety Antavious Lane. Lane returned his interception for a touchdown.
The first Pirate touchdown of the second half came early in the fourth quarter. On a field goal attempt, Houston called for the fake and sophomore receiver Tyler Snead ran 31 yards untouched for the score, bringing the score to 42-23 GSU.
“It’s a team game,” Saba said. “You gotta stay positive. If you stay positive, the next man next to you is gonna stay positive. You’ve gotta keep your head up. As you see we kept our head up to the fourth quarter and got into a close game. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t pull it out.”
On the following offensive possession, the Panthers were quickly shut down and forced to punt. Junior receiver Blake Prohel blocked the punt, scooped it up and ran the ball back 29-yards for a Pirate touchdown.
After a missed field goal by Georgia State, the Pirates were given a chance to capitalize with just over three minutes left in the game, but a turnover on downs extinguished any hope of a comeback.
The Panthers moved the ball down the field and Coates ran in the final touchdown of the game. He finished with 113 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Pinckney led the game in receiving yards with 134 on the day.
“We just got to be better,” Houston said. “We got to be better coaches, we got to be better players, we got to execute better. We just gotta push ourselves to continue to improve.”
Snead was the leading receiver for the Pirates with 111 receiving yards and a touchdown on special teams. Alhers threw for 242 yards and three interceptions, but not a single touchdown on the day. The running game was nearly nonexistent, with a total of 50 rushing yards for the team and no scores.
The Pirates will look to bounce back for their first win of the season as the team prepares to travel to Tampa, Florida to play the University of South Florida (1-1, 0-0 AAC) on Saturday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m.