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Pinnix sees Ahlers effect

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East Carolina's Holton Ahlers (12) runs as Darius Pinnix looks to block during the Pirates' win against North Carolina at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Sept. 8, 2018.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, September 14, 2018

There was a play last Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium when a North Carolina safety was staring at an East Carolina backfield with two guys totaling 463 pounds on a third-and-3 play near midfield.

The UNC safety keyed on the wrong player during the read option, chasing after 6-foot-3, 236-pound freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers as 227-pound backup running back Darius Pinnix zoomed by untouched for a 48-yard touchdown run.

It was the only score of the third quarter and it gave the Pirates, who ended up winning 41-19, a 28-19 lead with 10:13 remaining in the period. The play also was a great example of how Ahlers can put stress on a defense even when he doesn’t have the ball.

“It’s always great to have a running quarterback because the defense doesn’t have to worry about just the running back with the ball, but they have to worry about the quarterback running the ball too,” Pinnix said. “He is big factor and is a great kid. He is still learning and he is going to be a great player for sure.”

ECU is not playing its game this weekend at Virginia Tech because of Hurricane Florence.

Ahlers ran eight times for 36 yards and scored two of the Pirates’ four rushing touchdowns versus the Tar Heels. Starting RB Anthony Scott had 17 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown, Pinnix five for 65 yards and a TD and Hussein Howe 15 rushes for 50 yards.

In total, ECU rushed for 220 yards on 49 carries. It marked only the third time under coach Scottie Montgomery that the Pirates reached 200 rushing yards in a game.

Their best rushing total in 2017 was 187 in a 63-21 loss at Central Florida.

Ahlers, who did not play Week 1 in an upset loss to North Carolina A&T, served as a nice complement to starting QB Reid Herring against UNC. Herring is more a traditional passer and he finished 19-of-32 for 290 yards and a touchdown.

A key to the big victory was that East Carolina also did not turn the ball over.

“When Holton is in there, the impact of him helps the inside running game and when Reid is in there and he’s throwing ball well to the outside and to the receivers, that also helps the run game,” offensive coordinator Tony Petersen said. “Both of those quarterbacks have their way of helping our running game with their play.”

The Pirates have used all three of their QBs through two games.

Herring, a sophomore, had to leave the A&T game for one play because of a hard hit, and redshirt freshman Kingsley Ifedi came in to complete a 5-yard pass. When the same thing happened against the Heels, ECU instead turned to Ahlers.

The true freshman from D.H. Conley High School can play in up to four games this season and still redshirt. Like against UNC, the depth chart for the canceled game against the Hokies had Herring backed up by Ifedi and Ahlers as third-string.

“Kingsley had a great camp and has had great practices,” Montgomery said. “I think he is progressing toward being a better player and right now he is the backup quarterback and Holton is kind of the jack of all trades.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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