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ECU makes bowl for first time in 6 years

MON. | 12-27-21 | SPORTS

     The 2021 East Carolina University (ECU) football team has started to have more of a successful year with a current record of 7-5. The team has had a better year with head coach Mike Houston coaching his second season with the Pirates and returning players including Holten Ahlers, CJ Johnson, Keaton Mitchell, Rajae Harris, Jaqoun McMillan and Tyler Snead.

     The team started off the season with a loss to the University of South Carolina (USC)  with a final score of 20-17 with a great game from the defense but poor offensive results cost the game to USC's hands. Eventually, the Pirates began to gain some momentum beating Tulane, Marshall and Charleston Southern before coming up short to University of Central Florida. This spark of energy really began after beating non-conference Marshall. This was one of the highest scoring games of the 

ecu bowl game

Photo by Jay Tyndall

season so far with a score of 42-38. The Pirates were led by fifth- year senior quarterback Ahlers who completed 30/47 passes, for 368 yards and two touchdowns. Snead and Mitchell also had big games both scoring touchdowns, however the defense gave up a lot of touchdowns to Marshall causing the game to be close and more entertaining.

      After this run, they began to play with more team chemistry and discipline. The Pirates won many games in this stretch from the well-achieved defense lead by cornerback Ja’Quan McMillan, who now has 5 interceptions on the year and one forced fumble. This defense has kept games really close and has provided for ECU late in games. For instance, in the Temple game the Pirates only allowed a field goal and had a total of 57 tackles, 27 unassisted tackles and nine pass-defended plays.

      In the second stretch of the season, there were games that were played through overtime and blowout wins. ECU played Houston and lost with a final score of 31-24 in overtime, however, they bounced back the next week facing South Florida at home taking a 29-14 victory. This win carried over a spark of energy with the Pirates as they destroyed Temple with a score of 45-3 and a win at Memphis in overtime.

     The Pirates carried the momentum of this 2-0 run to Navy, and won with a game-winning kick from freshman kicker Owen Daffer to seal the game with a score of 38-35. This kick was the longest field goal this true freshman had ever kicked with a 54 yarder, and it was a perfect one bolting an extra six yards past the field goal. After the game, he was then rewarded with the game ball and the opportunity to be put on scholarship.

     The Pirates regular season wrapped up on Nov. 26 with a loss against the fourth ranked team in the country, Cincinnati. After this game, their record was 7-5 making them bowl eligible. The Pirates received the opportunity to play in the Military Bowl in Annapolis, MA. This bowl game will be against an Atlantic Coast Conference team which is Boston College who is also eligible. I believe that the successes that ECU had this year should definitely pay off in this bowl game. I think that they deserved this because of the hard work that took place and all of the challenges that many players have faced in the past few years with financial problems, a new coach and changing conferences.

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