football Edit

Seeing is Believing For ECU

Mike Houston and East Carolina hope a victory in Atlanta against Georgia State can ignite the team's belief system.
Mike Houston and East Carolina hope a victory in Atlanta against Georgia State can ignite the team's belief system.

East Carolina football has been down for a number of years. It began to dip late in the Ruffin McNeill era after Lincoln Riley departed for Oklahoma followed by three years of futility under Scottie Montgomery.

Enter Mike Houston who has had great success at places like the Citadel and James Madison before arriving in Greenville two years ago.

But turning the tide back in a positive direction has been no easy task. New programs at Old Dominion and Charlotte and the continued rise of Appalachian State have served to water down the talent base in the three state area of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

It has always been difficult to out recruit the six ACC schools in the area, making it double tough in today’s environment to succeed in football.

Add in the Covid19 virus and its effects and you have a lot of things working against East Carolina.

But perhaps the biggest challenge in getting the program back on the winning track is finding enough success to breed more success. ECU finds itself in a position to win on many occasions only to fumble or have penalty flags prevent it from coming to fruition.

Whatever needs to happen seems to happen as was witnessed last week against (13)Central Florida. The Pirates won the toss and scored the first touchdown of the game for a 7-0 lead. Then the new ECU defense headed up by Blake Harrell got an early stop of the Knights, putting the Pirates in a position to score again, but when they got in scoring position, the turnover bug hit not only once but three times effectively putting the Pirates behind the 8 ball.

Suddenly ECU was down 10-7 before the Knights scored 17 more points before halftime to take a commanding 27-7 lead into the locker room in yet another game that never had to go that way.

“You look up and it’s five and a half minutes left in the half and it was 13-7, it was 10-7 for much of the first half,” Mike Houston told PirateIllustrated.com earlier this week, “If you could have avoided those turnovers, if you could have gotten to the half like that, it would have done so much for the confidence heading into the second half.”

It is something both the team and staff are aware of because the Pirates have been so close but can’t seem to quite get over the hump. It is something that has been a big point of emphasis coming into this week against Georgia State, a traditionally smaller program that too is on the rise.

At this point in the proceedings, the last thing East Carolina needs is for that to happen again on Saturday and every effort is being made by the Pirate football staff in the hope to finally mitigate the issue.

“We watched the game with the players. I watched it with the linebackers and Coach (Blake) Harrell on Sunday afternoon, we had enough time to get to about that point before practice,” said Houston, “We cut it off and the last shot was the scoreboard. I said what do you think and Xavier (Smith) said it didn’t feel like we were that close and it was a one-score game right there.”

“I do think that getting over the confidence piece is a big factor for our older guys, for our younger guys just getting the experience,” Houston stated, “I think just having a positive result, game-in, game-out and series-in, series-out, having us hopefully put it together for a win. When we win a tight game and make plays down the stretch. All of those things are critical to the development of our team.”

A determined Mike Houston entered a press briefing on Thursday with the full knowledge that it’s time to begin to get it done. Losing has never been his forte. Houston has typically produced winning teams everywhere he has been.

“We wrapped up practice. Good execution - the kids will be ready to play on Saturday. We’re looking forward to getting down there and competing,” said Houston, “You’ve always got to be ready to go on the road and try to come back with a win. It’s going to be a great challenge. Our guys will be dialed in and ready to go.”

“We’ve gotten to play two weeks in a row, so after not knowing if we were going to play at all, we’re fortunate to get a second game,” Houston told PirateIllustrated.com, “So we’re excited to go compete. I can’t wait to get down to Atlanta. I’m glad it’s a 12 o’clock kickoff. We don’t have to sit around all day so we’ll be ready to go at about 12:03 whenever it’s time to go.”

Houston’s overall record entering this week stands at 84-33 in college football after a 42-18 record in the high school ranks, but the ECU experience has done little to better his record as of yet at 4-9 overall with just one conference victory, 31-24 over UConn that has since departed the AAC for independent status in football and the Big East in basketball.

Game time is at 12 noon when East Carolina travels to Georgia State in Center Parc Stadium on ESPNU. Stay tuned for more as Georgia State week continues here on PirateIllustrated.com.