ECU Tops Temple 28-3 in Philly
East Carolina picked up a much needed win in Philadelphia when they beat Temple 28-3 in AAC action Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.
The win snapped a six game losing skit to the Owls and was the first for ECU against Temple since the 1995 season.
The game got a bit of a late start after a Covid19 scare with one of the Temple players. Then the Pirates scored three touchdowns in the first half and took advantage of the fact that Temple had to play their fifth quarterback on the depth chart due to injuries and the fact that the projected starter Matt Duncan was suspended before the game for a violation of team rules.
ECU head coach Mike Houston was relieved afterward to pick up the team’s second win of the year in a season where the Pirates are just a play or two away from being at .500 right now.
“We needed that back, I’m just telling you. With some of the breaks we’ve gotten this year whether it’s Navy or Tulsa or whatever. I’ve struggled all week this week and those kids they’re the best thing ever. They are so resilient and that was jubilation in that locker room. They are very relieved and very excited.”
“2020 keeps on sending us plenty of curve balls. What a great job today to be able to get a win on the road against a team that we have not beaten in (AAC) conference play in the past,” said Houston, “The kids worked very hard in practice this week. We had some adversity with some guys out. I had a couple of guys making their first college start on the offensive line like Walt Stribling making his first college start.”
“We were not perfect today but the kids fought, did a great job with the game plan and it’s just exciting to get back on the winning side.”
Holton Ahlers passed for 182 yards on 11 of 22 passing for ECU(2-6) with a pair of touchdown under center for the Pirates and another on the ground. Keaton Mitchell led the ECU ground game with 103 yards on just 13 carries for an average of 7.9 yards per clip. He got help from Rahjai Harris who added 65 yards.
Kamal Gray stepped in at quarterback for Temple and went 10 for 21 through the air for 95 yards with one pick. Four of those receptions went to Brandon Mack while Tayvon Ruley led the Owl rushing attack with 48 yards on 14 carries.
“I thought the defense played very well. The line blocked and we ran the ball well so it was a good team win,” said Ahlers, “Snead did a real good job in the return game and anytime you get good field position like that it’s going to be real easy.”
“We knew coming in that it was going to be a real challenging year for a lot of different reasons but you’ve got to stay tough,” Ahlers told PI, “We said going into it that the team that sticks together the most is going to benefit the most from this. I think maybe not even this year but next year we’ll really see the benefits from just sticking together and believing in our method.”
Ahlers found C.J. Johnson on 60-yard touchdown less than a minute into the contest among his 86 yards overall on three catches. Then Tyler Snead’s 95 yard touchdown on special teams had the Pirates up 14-3 early in the second quarter. Snead also contributed with 75 yards on three pass receptions.
“They told me to pick up my legs up a little more on those punt returns so on the kickoff return I really tried to do that and it turned out good,” said Snead.
Snead was at it again when Ahlers found him on a 46-yard strike and the ECU lead grew to 21-3 after a Shawn Dourseau interception in the end zone ended a Temple red zone scoring threat with a minute to go in the half. It was Dourseau's second of the season.
“It feels good. We try to win every one, but the ones you do win they feel a lot better so we’re all excited,” said Snead.
“I think a lot of that kid (Snead). He’s tough as nails and what an awesome person and awesome player,” said Houston, “He did a great job in the return game both with punts and kicks and the big touchdown catch on offense were obviously pivotal today.”
“I thought it was a great call by Coach Harrell to play over-under on Brandon Mack there into their boundary and really played for the fade ball,” Houston told PirateIllustrated.com , “Ja’Quan did a good job there at the line of scrimmage and Shawn did a good job on the over coverage and making the interception.”
“We were going to play it very conservatively because you’re coming off the twenty-yard line late in the half and you don’t want to do anything to give the ball back to them,” Houston told PI, “But Keaton Mitchell breaking out with the big run to get us across midfield allowed us to be a little more aggressive. Then we get the touchdown to Snead there to go into the half which really put us into a good position going into the second half.”
Ahlers’ 75-yard run led to his one yard touchdown on the next play and suddenly ECU was up 28-3 with 11:05 remaining in the third quarter.
The play of inside linebackers Xavier Smith and Bruce Bivens who combined for 20 tackles including four behind the line of scrimmage, proved big in the Pirates’ defensive performance on Saturday.
“Some of the things we did up front in the game plan really put a lot on them and I thought the responded very, very well,” said Houston, “I thought they were physical with their tackling. They did a good job with some of our checks at the line of scrimmage but those two played very well today and that’s a big reason why we were able to slow their run game down today.”
Bruce Bivens snagged his first interception of the season with 5:27 to go in the game to go along with eleven tackles and neither teams scored again down the stretch. After the game and Smith, who had nine stops of his own, talked about his team’s defensive performance.
“We knew coming into the game that they were going to come in here and try to run the ball to open up their passing game,” said Smith, “So our game plan was to stop the run. Playing the kind of ball we played today to say the least it feels good.”
The Pirates tee it up one last time next week in Greenville when 7-2 SMU comes calling in a 12 noon matchup on ESPN+.