PirateIllustrated - ECU Hangs On To Take 24-21 Road Win at Old Dominion
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ECU Hangs On To Take 24-21 Road Win at Old Dominion

Blake Proehl scores on a 72-yard bomb from Holton Ahlers to give ECU an offensive jump start in the first half.
Blake Proehl scores on a 72-yard bomb from Holton Ahlers to give ECU an offensive jump start in the first half. (East Carolina photo)

ECU came into Saturday night’s game at ODU in need of a win, looking to get to 3-2 and they did just enough to pick up a 24-21 victory over the Monarchs at Ballard Stadium.

Holton Ahlers went 8 for 21 for 202 yards through the air with a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions for ECU. Blake Proehl pulled down a pair of catches for 100 yards including a touchdown and Deondre Farrier had two catches for 61 yards including a career long 53-yarder in the first quarter. Demetrius Mauney led the ECU ground game with 52 yards on 10 carries.

The Pirates delivered 309 yards of offense on just 57 plays against 293 ODU total yards on 72 offensive snaps. ECU won despite the fact the Monarchs occupied the football for over 36 minutes of the contest.

“Anytime you go on the road and get a win it’s huge. I think our team really showed who we are and who we’re going to be,” said Ahlers, “It was a very gutsy performance by all of us so it’s exciting.”

Stone Smartt threw for 203 yards under center for ODU with a pair of interceptions and led the Monarch rushing attack with 71 yards and a touchdown. Four catches apiece went to Hasaan Patterson and Kesean Strong.

“To have the adversity we had in the third quarter, to have some of the things we’ve had so far this season and for them to never stop believing in each other and playing their butts off for each other,” said ECU head coach Mike Houston, “It was ugly at times and we did some stupid stuff, but they did what they had to do to win it in the end. To win on the road in a hostile environment against a good football team, we’re 3-2 on the season going into a Thursday night home game.”

“We didn’t hang our heads, we stayed together, we kept fighting. We talk about that all the time but it’s easy to talk about but it’s hard to do in the moment. I’m really proud of them the way they pulled through there in the fourth quarter,” said Houston.

“We tried to take some shots down the field last week. They didn’t work out,” Houston stated, “Certainly they did tonight and it was a big factor in the game because it backs everybody off us and gave us room to run it there and that’s a good ball club that we were facing. There is nothing better than sitting in victory formation in the purple and gold. That’s as good as it gets.”

“Our old team wouldn’t have been able to do that. It was hard coming out in the second half when everything was going the other team’s way,” said ECU receiver Blake Proehl, “That just shows you how much we’ve grown as a team and we pushed through the adversity and we came out with the win.”

Pirate defensive ends Chandon Hickerson came up big with six tackles along with Kendall Futrell who had seven tackles to lead ECU with three sacks on defense to go along with five tackles each from four different ECU defenders.

“We flied around and tried to make some plays. Tried to get off the field to give our offense more opportunities and it was a great team win all around,” said Futrell.

ECU scored first on a 29-yard Jake Verity field goal after starting their first drive at the negative one-yard line. The nine play, 87-yard drive gave the Pirates an early 3-0 lead to open the game. Old Dominion answered with a 26-yard Nick Rice field goal on their first drive of the game that tied the contest at 3-3 with 5:58 left in the first quarter.

The Pirates then scored for the second time in the first quarter on a Warren Saba blocked punt and and 4-yard score to expand the early ECU lead to 10-3.

Less than three minutes into the second quarter, Holton Ahlers found Blake Proehl on a 72-yard touchdown bomb and the Pirate lead grew to two-touchdowns at 17-3.

“We worked it all week and we knew that was the look we were going to get. Blake made a great play. That’s all him. He ran a great route and made a great play when he caught the ball.”

Proehl talked about what he saw on the 72-yard strike from Ahlers.

“I saw him throw it up in the air and I wasn’t really sure if it was going to somebody else but I just said go attack the ball,” Proehl said, “Huge win. We need this momentum going into Thursday night. Building momentum is going to be huge for us.”

ODU appeared to be in business after intercepting Ahlers deep in negative ECU territory before aggressive defense at the goal line resulted in a Bruce Bivins Pirate fumble recovery at the ten-yard line to snuff out the Monarch scoring threat.

Ahlers passed for 148 yards in the first half, 72 yards of which went to Proehl for a touchdown and two more catches from Deondre Farrier for 61 yards.

Stone Smartt was limited to just 38 yards passing in the first twenty minutes for ODU and he led all Monarch rushers with 58 yards. Steven Williams, Jr. came down with two of those receptions for 21 yards.

Old Dominion recovered a Tyler Snead fumble on a punt return just a minute into the second half. The Monarchs subsequently scored their first touchdown of the game on a Stone Smartt 5-yard run to trim the lead to 17-10.

Things didn’t get any easier for ECU when Jordan Young picked off a Ahlers pass at the 45-yard line and ODU turned it into a 39-yard Nick Rice field goal to cut the Pirate lead to 17-13 with 8:30 to go in the third quarter.

But ECU extended the lead to 24-13 on a 5-yard shovel pass from Ahlers to tight end Anthony Watley with 10:36 to go. ODU then answered with a touchdown on a Kesean Strong one yard run. That was followed by a two-point conversion on a Smartt to Chris Cunningham pass to trim the Pirate lead to three at 24-21 with 2:13 to go.

The subsequent onside kick proved unsuccessful for ODU when it was recovered by ECU and the Pirates took a knee to run out the clock and hold on for a three-point victory.

ECU(3-2) returns home next Thursday night for their first AAC game of the season against (3-1)Temple. Game time is at 8 o’clock on ESPN.