Holton Ahlers

Junior quarterback Holton Ahlers winds up to throw the ball during a pre-season practice.

East Carolina University is expected to open its football season at noon on Sept. 26 versus nationally ranked University of Central Florida in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, as announced on Sept. 14 by the ECU Athletic Department on Twitter.

The Tweet confirmed that the game will be televised exclusively on ESPN+. This is a product of the newly signed media rights extension that the American Athletic Conference (AAC) has with ESPN that will begin with the 2020 season, according to the AAC’s website.

The deal consists of a 12-year extension which continues to give ESPN the ability to televise AAC sports on channels like ESPN, ABC, ESPN 2, ESPN U, as well as ESPN +.

It seems that every time ECU is given a noon time slot, it is almost always because the opposing team is seen to be significantly favored over the Pirates. In almost every noon matchup since 2018, the opposing team has been favored to defeat ECU by at least a five point margin of victory.

Since junior quarterback Holton Ahlers has been named the starter at his respective position, the wins to losses ratio for noon games is not in the favor of the Pirates. In games that Ahlers has started since 2018, ECU has a 1-6 record for games with a noon start time.

Out of the seven noon games played from 2018 to 2019, five out of ECU’s six losses were by more than 14 points. All but two of those seven total games were against AAC opponents, highlighting ECU’s continuing struggles with conference play.

While it may be a far-fetched statistic to solely attribute ECU’s success to, it is a factor that cannot be ignored.

In its only win out of the seven noon games, the Pirates defeated the University of Connecticut (UConn) on Nov. 23, 2019 by a score of 31-24. Ahlers threw 34 for 50 from the air and accumulated a total of 374 yards passing with one touchdown.

Ahlers also had 22 rushing yards on the day with one rushing touchdown. It was also a productive game for junior running back Darrius Pinnix Jr. who had 113 rushing yards with two touchdowns.

Having a healthy C.J. Johnson at wide receiver, unlike during last year’s game against Southern Methodist University on Nov. 19, is certain to have an impact on ECU’s success against UCF. Johnson was ruled out during the game with minor concussion-like symptoms after a hit.

Throwing in the fact that there will be no fans present during the home opener on Sept. 26, and that they will be playing the University of Central Florida (UCF) that is ranked as high at No. 9 nationally by ESPN, things aren’t looking good for ECU.

Hopefully ECU can add another win to its record for noon matchups and break the trend that is already occurring against heavily favored conference opponents.

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