In the beginning of the season it could have been argued that the East Carolina football special teams unit was a big part of the Pirates’ five-game losing streak. But it has made a noticeable turnaround and can be pointed to as one of the biggest contributors to ECU’s success.

“I thought our special teams played well today, and we’re moving in the direction of making the plus,” ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery said after the win against Connecticut. “Our special teams play, I thought helped us win the game.”

In the Pirates’ first six games, a field goal attempt had failed in every game. The special team’s unit also had troubles pinning the return man deep, allowing long returns and putting the defense in difficult positions at the start of their drive.

“I think these past couple games, we’ve all really just been pushing ourselves as a whole special teams unit,” said kicker Davis Plowman. “Just trying to be our best every single day.”

Although the special teams unit did not start off the season well, it dug an even bigger hole in its game against Virginia Tech. In the Pirates’ fourth game of the season, special teams seemed to be one of its biggest concerns. Less than five minutes in, the Hokies return man returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown for the first score of the game.

Matters continued to get worse as ECU marched down the field in an attempt to get on the scoreboard, down 14-0, when a field goal from the Virginia Tech 26-yard line was blocked. Then on ECU’s very next possession it attempted to punt the ball on fourth down, but the Hokies blocked it to start their drive on the ECU 24-yard line.

It’s safe to say the special teams unit doomed the Pirates from being victorious that day.

“It’s very easy when you have a good game or a bad game to look up, look at your stats, look at even the win loss and just get down on yourself or try to blame something, but for me it’s just kind of like I’ve got to do the same thing every week,” punter Worth Gregory said. “I have a plan that I need to follow and I just need to keep my head down and keep pushing.”

In ECU’s last two games, it seems that a lot has changed. Not only was the special teams successful in keeping the returns to a minimum, but Plowman didn’t miss a field goal.

Another big component on the special teams has been sophomore Joe Carter. In the past two games Carter has been a prominent player with big hits for short return yardage and in the battle against Connecticut he forced a fumble on the nine-yard line to give the ball back to the offense for another score.

“Special teams was a major plus for us,” Montgomery said. “Davis [Plowman] and Worth [Gregory] did a great job for us kicking the ball as specialists, but my special teams play of the week once again, I feel like I talk about him every week, was Joe Carter [for] getting that ball out on that fumble.”

Moving forward it will be critical for the Pirates to continue their success on special teams as they face several tough conference rivals. In close games, a special teams turnover could be a game changer for ECU.

“Each week we talk about having special teams being an asset and dominating the other team,” Carter said. “It’s about being better than the other team. Just try and continue to dominate because the past couple weeks we have played really well.”

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