PirateIllustrated - ECU Falls Hard to Wolfpack 34-6 To Open The Mike Houston Era
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ECU Falls Hard to Wolfpack 34-6 To Open The Mike Houston Era

Holton Ahlers' first quarter fumble at the goal line took the air out of the ECU balloon momentum wise in a 34-6 loss to N.C. State.
Holton Ahlers' first quarter fumble at the goal line took the air out of the ECU balloon momentum wise in a 34-6 loss to N.C. State. (PirateIllustrated.com photo)

Matt McKay passed for 308 yards including a 48-yard touchdown strike to Tabari Hines and ran for two more scores as N.C. State took ECU to the woodshed for the second straight year 34-6 in Carter-Finley Stadium Saturday afternoon.

McKay completed 25 of his 37 passes to go along with 191 yards of offense on the ground from the Wolfpack.

N.C. State seized early momentum on a Holton Ahlers first quarter fumble near the goal line that would have otherwise given ECU an early seven point lead. N.C. State then cashed it in at the other end of the field on a nine-yard Zonovan Knight touchdown scamper that set the tone for the entire contest.

“Football is a momentum game. I fumbled it and that’s on me, but we’re a better team than that,” Ahlers said, “We had a great first drive. We were moving the ball so we’ve got to get better with that and learn from it. I just lost it. The helmet hit the ball and I lost it but that won’t happen again. That’s on me.”

ECU(0-1) was never able to find a way to recover offensively and were limited to just six points on a pair of Jake Verity field goals.

Ahlers went just 22 of 39 for 168 yards with one interception and was sacked three times on the day for a Pirate team that only managed to pick up 41 yards on the ground for the contest.

He indicated afterward that it would have changed the course of events in the game had ECU scored early instead of turning the football over.

"We stopped ourselves. This is not a losing football team. We know that. We're going to bounce back next week. If we take away the missed assignments and the mistakes we're in this ballgame - It's a close ballgame. We kind of did it to ourselves. We've got to learn from it," Ahlers told PirateIllustrated.com afterward, “Absolutely, anytime you can score right off the bat, that’s big so I’ve just got to learn from it, get better from it and get ready for next week,”

“I think he’s better than he played,” Houston said of Ahlers, “I think he’ll say the exact same thing. I love him and I’m glad he’s our quarterback. I didn’t think he had the kind of performance that we expect of him or he expects from himself.”

Pirate head coach Mike Houston has now lost two straight to N.C. State and he was not pleased with the outcome but seemed to take the loss in stride.

“They don’t give you any ribbons for coming close. That was a big play in the ballgame because that completely changed the outlook of the first half. If you go into the end of the first half tied or ahead, then obviously that’s a complete different mindset coming out of the tunnel in the second half,” said Houston, “We’ve got to take step one which is where we are and we’ve got to start getting better.”

“Obviously I’m not pleased with the outcome of the ballgame. Congratulations to Coach Doeren and N.C. State. I’ve talked about it all week and we talked about it last year. He’s done a great job. They’re building a very solid program. When you do a good job of recruiting and you build a roster the right way, there are no rebuilding years. I would expect them to be one of the better teams in the ACC.”

“They did not turn the ball over even though they did have some balls on the ground. We were not able to take advantage of them,” said Houston, “Obviously that was critical for us. Opening drive we came out, had a great drive, went right down the field. Obviously right at the goal line going in and we’ve got to control the ball all the way through the end zone.”

The Wolfpack nearly doubled ECU’s offensive output with 505 yards to just 269 for the Pirates.

ECU did get eight tackles apiece from Kendall Futrell, Gerard Stringer and Daniel Charles along with seven stops from Mike Witherspoon but State seemed to find open receivers all day and they presented a stiff defensive package that kept the Pirates out of the end zone all afternoon.