Holton Ahlers Darius Pinnix

Freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers passes the ball off to Sophomore running back Darius Pinnix.

East Carolina University football head coach Scottie Montgomery said on Monday it was good to be back in Greenville after the ECU football team returned home banged up and disappointed after its crushing 20-13 loss to University of South Florida on Saturday in Tampa, Florida.

ECU had been in Florida since it bussed to Orlando to avoid Hurricane Florence on Sept. 12. ECU played an emotionally charged game, sporting custom helmets which had a new logo featuring the “One Carolina” mantra honoring those affected by Hurricane Florence in North and South Carolina. ECU didn’t get back into town until around 4 a.m. on Sunday.

“We are very thankful to all the people that supported us in the last 13 or 14 days,” Montgomery said. “It's been a long couple of weeks. Our guys went down and prepared well and did what they were supposed to do. We just wanted to come back victorious and we were unable to do that."

Montgomery said the difference in the game was big plays on both sides of the ball. USF made two big plays for touchdowns and ECU couldn’t make the big plays when it needed it. Other than those big plays, ECU played an outstanding game and had a chance to upset a USF team which was favored by 21 points by ESPN.

Montgomery noted that the bottom line is about wins and losses and he would feel a lot better if the Pirates had beaten USF, but that he does feel good about the direction of the program and has for a while.

“We've been moving in the right direction for a while,” Montgomery said. “We played an undefeated team on the road and had multiple chances to win the game. When you have those, you want the leadership on the team, the playmakers on the team, to take over.”

Montgomery said ECU is high on confidence right now. The defense was confident in the offense to score all night, and the offense was confident that the defense would get a stop. Montgomery said it was disappointing that eventually the offense didn’t make the big play, but it still doesn’t take away that ECU has caught up in terms of talent.

“We're playing with a lot more confidence. We're practicing with a lot more confidence. We're preparing with a lot more confidence. The coaches have a lot more confidence in the players and the players have a lot more confidence in the coaches, because they've seen the level of growth we've had here,” Montgomery said.

Physically, the team came back banged up with a few minor injuries, but nothing which will affect the team in a major way, according to Montgomery.

Montgomery acknowledges that the injury status of any team can change week to week in football, but as of right now the team’s health is better than in recent years and the depth on the roster has helped with that.

“I've seen some teams that were looking great a few weeks ago, then I turn the TV on and they're missing three or four guys on one side of the ball, if not both,” Montgomery said. “We just have to continue getting our treatment, continue to feed them and work them out. I think our physical conditioning, we're in a little better shape than we have been in the past."

Quarterback Reid Herring continues to deal with a bad ankle which has affected him since the win over UNC on Sept. 8. Montgomery said ECU will continue to monitor Herring over the next week, but that the ankle problem isn’t expected to limit Herring or keep him out.

Montgomery said ECU really wants to give Kingsley Ifedi some reps at some point soon. Montgomery said ECU was really close to putting Kingsley Ifedi into the game in the second half because of Herring’s limited mobility due to his ankle injury. Herring convinced the coaching staff he was fine and went on to play the second half.

Despite the looming threat of a banged up quarterback, ECU will actually get one key player back this weekend. Montgomery said Colby Gore went through his last set of testing on Monday and that he is “probable” to be available to play this weekend.

All of the minor injuries and disappointment surely were helped in part by the relief of being back home. Montgomery said the team will get some time to enjoy being back, but is moving on quickly toward Old Dominion University on Saturday.

“I'm as happy to be home as anyone else,” Montgomery said. “But there was still the emotion of the game yesterday that was on them. We got back late so we didn't have a lot of time to enjoy it. We got back at 4 a.m. and they were back over here for treatment early in the morning. The happiness of being back home, they're probably experiencing that today. Yesterday was more about getting back on the horse and moving directly into Old Dominion."

Montgomery added that ECU is in communication with Virginia Tech about the possibility of adding a 12th game and that it is still up in the air. ECU has a bye on Oct. 27 and Virginia Tech’s falls on Oct. 20. The original meeting was canceled due to Hurricane Florence.

ECU and Old Dominion will kickoff at 3:30 ET and will air on ESPNNews.

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