The East Carolina University Pirates kicked off their season with a matchup against the former Coastal Athletic Association Subdivision National Champion James Madison University Dukes. The top ranked Dukes came atop of the Pirates 34-14, in an all-around mishap for ECU.
After a long offseason, head coach Scottie Montgomery was disappointed by the way his team performed. According to Montgomery, the team has had a great preseason and minicamp, so the blunder at Dowdy-Ficklen comes as a surprise to fans and the Pirate organization.
“We give a lot of credit to JMU, they played well offensively and defensively, special teams all around they outplayed us,” Montgomery said. “Our biggest issue was that we didn't play well on the offensive front, a slow start from the get go, and that linked right into our quarterback play and that wasn't very good.”
Early in the first half, coach Montgomery made the decision to switch to Thomas Sirk as the head of the offense. The lack of offensive blocking and heavy amount of defensive pressure caused the starter Gardner Minshew to be removed from the game, Montgomery said. Sirk entered the game and gave the team the boost they need to go on long offensive drives, but the team could never get in sync.
“As quarterbacks, we got to take better care of the football,” Sirk said. “I feel like coach Peterson put us in the best position to be successful, and we got off to a slow start but we have to set the tempo for the defense.”
JMU’s Johnson ran for his life Saturday night, topping off his yardage at 265, a career high for him and adding two touchdowns on the ground. The JMU standout had two 80-yard carries that turned into touchdowns extending the former champions lead. Though JMU received 14 penalties, costing them 172 yards, the Dukes were able to hold off the Pirates late chance at a comeback defeating them 34-14.
ECU’s few bright spots throughout the night came from Derrell Scott, the freshman Darius Pinnox, and Dayvon Grayson. Scott and Pinnox each scored a touchdown on the ground, but Grayson had an outstanding game snagging seven catches for 86 yards and getting over 10 balls thrown his way. He says he is ready to step into the role as a leading receiver for targets for the team.
“I've spent almost two years now sitting on the sideline injured and going through things off the football field and today I finally got a chance to do what I love to do and what I work so hard for,” Grayson said.
Defensively, the team had its moments, with captain Jordan Williams getting 14 tackles and Kiante Anderson providing pressure on the line garnering six tackles and one sack and fumble. In his first game as a Pirate, Tim Irvin played well making some great tackles and plays, one of his tipped passes led to an ECU interception.
“We got to look at personnel,” Montgomery said. “We've worked really hard, it’s simple we just got to come back to work, we have practiced really well and that is disappointing.”
This loss comes as the first wake up call for Pirate football, the team now knows what needs to be revised in order to travel to West Virginia and avoid the same outcome.
“At the end of the day we have to come up with a game plan to win, nobody wants to go out there and lose or have a game turnout like that,” Grayson said. “All I can say is I promise you the guys are going to show up with their hair on fire tomorrow... Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, (and) when we go up there we will give those guys (West Virginia) everything we got.”