As East Carolina’s losing streak came to an end, the Pirates’ homecoming game win streak stretched to 11 after a 41-3 blowout against the Connecticut Huskies Saturday afternoon.
“Today our guys came out and the effort and enthusiasm met the execution,” ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery said. “It’s probably close to, as where we’re at right now in the season, a complete game, without looking at the tape, that we probably had at any time this year.”
Coming into the game, the Pirates only tallied one sack in seven games. But Saturday the ECU defense recorded four sacks as well as two interceptions. In the first quarter, the Pirates held UConn to three straight three-and-outs, only allowing a total of 16 yards.
“[Defensive coordinator] Kenwick Thompson worked as hard as any coach that I have seen this week, and getting those guys to understand bringing pressure from here,” Montgomery said. “Any time you hold a team to around 300 yards on offense or less, you’ve done the job.”
Since the five-game losing streak began for the Pirates, they have not been able to score a touchdown in the first quarter. On the Pirates’ first drive of the game, they went down the field in 13 plays to end the drive with a touchdown pass to James Summers on fourth down to strike first on the scoreboard.
“When he feels like we got it, he’s going to always call on us to execute, and that’s what we did out there today,” said Summers about his coach’s decision to go for it on fourth down three times successfully.
At the start of the second quarter the Huskies picked up a first down for the first time in the game. But after making their way to the ECU 29-yard line, UConn missed a 46-yard field goal. On their next drive however the Huskies redeemed themselves with a 34-yard field goal to bring the game to 7-3.
With 3:14 left in the first half of the game quarterback Philip Nelson took the field once again and marched down the field to the UConn two-yard line. It was then that Montgomery reached into his bag of tricks. Summers stood at quarterback and pitched the ball to wide receiver Zay Jones, who then threw a pass to Nelson for a touchdown for a 14-3 lead going in at halftime.
10 plays into the second half’s opening drive, ECU kicker Davis Plowman set up for a 39-yard field goal, extending the lead to 17-3.
“We went into the locker room, the biggest thing I wanted my guys to understand is that it was a 0-0 game,” said Montgomery. “The most critical play in the game though was us hitting that three.”
The ECU defense forced a three and out, which set up another Summer’s touchdown for the Pirates.
On the kickoff to the Huskies’ Arkeel Newsome, linebacker Joe Carter forced a fumble that was then recovered by Ray Tillman. Then within just two plays a three-yard touchdown pass to Jones brought the game to 31-3, where his parents stood waiting, resulting in hugs.
“It was really poetic, something I could not have dreamed of,” said Jones. “Just to have my family and my mom and dad in the back of the end zone to greet me after the score was probably one of the most memorable moments in my life.”
To start the fourth quarter, ECU continued its drive on the UConn 31-yard line where Summers threw a long pass to Williams for another touchdown. ECU then let sophomore Gardner Minshew step in to finish the game, and he was able to gain three more points to break the losing streak with a 41-3 win.
“It’s been a different week, and it shows today,” said Summers. “We was hitting on all cylinders, and we were out there playing for each other, which is what we need to do for the rest of the season.”