Cannon Gibbs

Senior linebacker Cannon Gibbs during the Nov. 3 game against Memphis.

On what will wind up being an emotional Senior Day for proud families and fans, the East Carolina University football team has an opportunity to send its seniors off with a bang in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium when the University of Connecticut comes to town this Saturday.

Both teams have struggled so far this year. ECU (2-7, 0-6 AAC) is coming in on a five game losing streak, with its last win dating back on Sept. 29, when it defeated Old Dominion University 37-35 in a nail-biter. UConn (1-9, 0-6 AAC) has lost seven in a row, its last and only win came against Rhode Island where it also won in a high scoring affair 56-49 on Sept. 15.

In the past four matchups between these two teams, the Pirates have won three of the four. The only loss to the Huskies came in 2015 when they took home field advantage to defeat ECU 31-13. The Pirates won on Homecoming weekend in 2016, 41-3 and in 2017, 41-38. This go round, the Pirates have an 18 point favorite to win on Saturday.

“That’s the first time I have heard of it, (ECU being an 18 point favorite),” head coach Scottie Montgomery said. “It doesn't really matter, we still have to go out and play the game. They are going to come in wound up, we are wound up, it’s going to be a good game.”

The Pirates have had a lot of offensive inconsistencies which has been perhaps the main reason for their losing streak. Running the ball has been one of the biggest problems for ECU in just about every contest. On Saturday, the Pirates look to get back on track with their running game and fix those inconsistencies.

“It starts with running the ball,” freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers said. “We have to get some movement up front. We are going to do that. I trust in our guys and the pass game is going to come as well.”

In the past five games, the ECU defense has given up too many big plays. Against Tulane, the three touchdowns they gave up to the Green Wave came off big plays. Defensive coordinator David Blackwell wants to take away those big plays and give the offense a chance to win the game.

“The teams that limit explosive plays are going to be very successful,” Blackwell said. “We have made great strides defensively, but to get to where we want to get to, we have to be able to close these games out, and the key to closing these games out is to limit the explosive plays.

Even though the Pirates are favored to win by a big margin, they have had the tendency of losing games because of their fourth quarter production. Against the University of South Florida on Sept. 22, after giving up a touchdown in the fourth quarter, ECU failed to reach the end zone and tie the game, where it would go on lose 20-13. Against the University of Memphis on Nov. 3, the Pirates managed to tie the game at 31 in the second half, but failed to keep up with the Tigers and lost 59-41.

The Pirates have struggled this year at finishing games. This team will have the opportunity to right the ship for the program at 7 p.m in front of ECU fans for the final home game of the season.

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