There is an old coaching cliché that says a game is 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental. For East Carolina and new head coach Scottie Montgomery, Saturday will serve as the first game to prove he’s the guy for the coaching job.
This past winter, ECU made the bold decision to call for beloved Pirates’ head coach Ruffin McNeill’s dismissal. In doing so, literal protest broke out with players threatening to transfer and fans becoming disgruntled with Athletic Director Jeff Compher’s decision. And while Pirate fans dwelled amongst some minor hostility, Montgomery moved in fast, and since his first day of spring football practice in April, has been laying down his foundation.
Already, it seems as if Montgomery has been coaching in Greenville for ages. Off the field, Montgomery handles himself well, from dealing with the media and disciplining players all the way to his work in the community.
Fans shouldn’t get ahead of themselves, however, because it needs to be remembered why he is here: to win. And he gets his first opportunity at doing just that Saturday against a lower-tier Western Carolina team.
It’s true, WCU is a lower-tier football program but so is ECU to your biggest “Roll tide, Roll” fans. Just another reason why this game can’t be overlooked.
It is Montgomery’s first ever game as a head coach and this will be the first time this offense has ever been in an actual game against an opponent. As solid as this offense could be, that can only go so far without a quarterback who can man the helm.
The National Football League gets preseason, ECU gets Western Carolina and losses count.
Momentum is like a sixth sense in football and ECU will look to gain it Saturday, as it tries to get on the same page offensively and defensively. It’s easy to overlook WCU due to next week’s in-state rivalry game with NC State — a game with an Atlantic Coast Conference foe with huge bragging rights on the line.
This is exactly why ECU can’t overlook the Catamounts. This game has to be focused on implementing the Pirates’ gameplan and it must be used to get all the kinks out. Discipline and conditioning will be on display for the first time in the Montgomery era.
Hoping his talent can keep him out of trouble, expect Montomery to take a lot of risks Saturday to find the boundaries in both of his playbooks. The offense might attack the deep ball more often to facilitate more confidence in receivers. The defense, one would imagine, could be blitz-heavy, isolating corners and safeties, trusting its pass rush and finding which packages it feels more comfortable in.
The Pirates could also be running a live competition at defensive end after the exit of starter Darius Commissiong, but expect a lot of rotation at all positions due to competition and conditioning.
WCU is perfect for that very reason, it can be damaging when taking risks against stronger opponents, but talent should always keep the Pirates in the game against an FCS opponent.
Saturday is a must win for a strong team that needs to carry a new starting quarterback with a high ceiling, a new head coach with heavy shoulders and an athletic director who is out to prove he was right.
If Montgomery is half as good on the field as he is off, the Pirates will handle this game seriously, just as they should and win it easily.