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ECU Takes Momentum Into The Final Game Against Tulsa

Mike Houston and East Carolina prepare for Senior Day against Tulsa in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday.
Mike Houston and East Carolina prepare for Senior Day against Tulsa in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday. (PirateIllustrated.com photo)

The Pirates kept things moving in a positive fashion with a hard earned 31-24 victory when a Colby Gore interception at the one yard line ended a late UConn scoring threat with just one second to go in the game.

After picking up their fourth win on Saturday, ECU heads into the last game of the season against a talented Tulsa team looking to finish strong.

“It was good to get a road win in league play last weekend at Connecticut. It certainly was an exciting ball game. I thought the players were very engaged all week last week and were prepared to play on Saturday, said ECU head coach Mike Houston, “I thought we played really hard. I liked how our sideline was throughout the day. I thought the players were very into the game and did a great job at timeouts and sideline adjustments – things like that.

"The critical turning point was when we had a seven-point lead and had them pinned deep at their goal line, they had the 94-yard touchdown pass. Then, a couple of plays later we throw the interception that was returned deep into our territory. At that point, you are teetering on the point of them taking complete control of the game," Houston said,

"Our defense got a three and out and the offense came back, drove down the field and scored to take the lead permanently. We were able to get the big stop at the end with seconds remaining in the game. I think that whole sequence shows the growth, resiliency and mental toughness of this group. Given that same exact scenario back in late August or early September, I don’t know that we win that ball game.

Houston talked about how Tulsa’s season might be entirely different right now given s break or two along the way.

“Tulsa has had the chance, like we have a couple times, to knock off some of the best teams in the country. They did get UCF, but they also went to triple overtime with SMU and had Memphis down to the last play of the game. They also had a close game with Cincinnati and some others, so this is a team that is much better than its record,” Houston stated.

“It is a team that has as much talent as anyone in the league and has some of the top players in the league on its roster. We are really going to have to play well Saturday to have a shot. Our team is very motivated, and I expect us to have a great week of practice in order to be dialed in and ready to play on Saturday. I expect a big rowdy crowd of Pirate faithful here on Saturday for what should be a great game.”

It was vital for ECU to surpass what the program had done over the past three years by getting their fourth win. Now the focus is on grabbing a fifth win in Mike Houston’s first season with the Pirates. Tulsa presents a solid challenge and Houston talked about why you can’t overlook them.

“Tulsa has had the chance, like we have a couple times, to knock off some of the best teams in the country. They did get UCF, but they also went to triple overtime with SMU and had Memphis down to the last play of the game. They also had a close game with Cincinnati and some others, so this is a team that is much better than its record,” said Houston.

“It is a team that has as much talent as anyone in the league and has some of the top players in the league on its roster. We are really going to have to play well Saturday to have a shot. Our team is very motivated, and I expect us to have a great week of practice in order to be dialed in and ready to play on Saturday. I expect a big rowdy crowd of Pirate faithful here on Saturday for what should be a great game.”

Defensively for Tulsa, there are several players who have the attention of the first year ECU coach. Houston likes the play of Trevis Gibson who ranks top five in the AAC in sacks and tackles for a loss. He along with Reggie Robinson at cornerback who Houston says is the best corner he has seen all year, leads the league in interceptions. Zaven Collins at linebacker at 256 is another player who has been a standout performer for the Golden Hurricane.

For ECU, they will look to continue to improve defensively in the last game of the season after a game at UConn that also could have gone differently for the Pirates.

“You look at the game last week and there were only three to five plays that were the chunk of UConn’s offense. We need to eliminate those big plays. They had two big passing plays that went for scores then two more big passing plays that were a result of a player slipping,” Houston told PirateIllustrated.com, “We also didn’t play one of the routes very well. If you take those plays out and I think we did a much better job Saturday. I was pleased with how we defended the run. Again, you have to eliminate those big plays because that is what defense is about. It sounds like an excuse because the reality is that we did give up those plays and over 400 yards passing.”

ECU has played much better in the second half of the season. They played solid games against a pair of ranked teams in SMU and Cincinnati which sends a message to the rest of the league that the future could be pretty bright for the Pirates.

Kickoff is set for 12 noon in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for ECU vs Tulsa to close out the 2019 regular season. This week’s Senior Day contest will be televised on ESPNU.

PI AUDIO: MIKE HOUSTON TULSA WEEK PRESS CONFERENCE

PI AUDIO: TYLER SNEAD TALKS TULSA

PI AUDIO: KENDALL FUTRELL