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Pirate defense seeking bounce-back performance

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Tony Pollard (1) for Memphis is pushed out of bounds by East Carolina defender Davondre Robinson. Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018.


The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

East Carolina’s total of three turnovers gained for the football season is still hindering the Pirates, but that is not all first-year defensive coordinator David Blackwell is focused on in the aftermath of a 59-41 loss to Memphis, the Pirates’ worst defensive outing of the season in an otherwise steady campaign for the unit.

The Tigers hit on two scoring passes of at least 70 yards en route to totaling 639 yards.

Blackwell said Tulane, this week’s opponent for a 4 p.m. (EST) kickoff in New Orleans, is also capable of explosive plays if the Pirates are not focused on their basics and positioned correctly in their gaps along with always looking for turnover opportunities.

“Everybody is worried about takeaways, but I’m worried about stopping people,” Blackwell said after Wednesday’s practice. “I’ve been through a season where we didn’t get hardly any takeaways, but we were one of the top defenses in the country. It all, to me, figures into everything.

“We can’t give up a 4-yard slant route for a (75-yard) touchdown, and we can’t give up a screen play, no matter who got held, for a 71-yard touchdown. Those cost you football games.”

The next challenge for ECU (2-6, 0-5 American Athletic Conference) will come mainly in facing Tulane’s unique rushing attack.

The Green Wave (4-5, 3-2) has won consecutive games, rushing for at least 300 yards in each contest.

Six different players ran the ball for the Green Wave most recently in a 41-15 rout at South Florida. Leading rusher Darius Bradwell produced a long run of 73 yards, and Corey Dauphine had a 41-yarder to highlight his 16 carries for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

“They definitely like to run the ball a lot and are very versatile and creative with the ball,” Pirate defensive end Kendall Futrell said. “They are going to try to run the ball a lot and they can use their quarterback with the different running backs. … We definitely have to have a bounce-back, and we are capable of doing that.”

A lot of talk this week about the ECU defense has centered around Memphis’ blocking last Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery was demonstrative Monday during his weekly news conference in pointing out plays when holding was not called against the Tigers.

Memphis, which was penalized nine times for 56 yards, got a huge day from big-play running back Darrell Henderson (132 rushing yards, 72 receiving, three touchdowns) to highlight the team’s 277 ground yards on 52 carries.

Futrell said linemen have to continue to fight through blocks, even if they think they are being held.

Blackwell added that he is appreciative of Montgomery’s support, but is no doubt looking for a better performance from his unit on Saturday.

“He has our back and we appreciate that, but the bottom line is we have to play better,” Blackwell said. “We gave up (too many) first downs, and that is coaching and players not taking to coaching. There were two situations early in the game with the same call and the same formation and the first time we got off the field, but the second time we don’t because we don’t put ourselves in position to be successful.

“There are going to be missed calls in every game, but the bottom line is we have to play better defensively.”

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


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


January 23, 2019

East Carolina’s basketball teams return to game action tonight and they will both be underdogs in their matchups.

ECU’s women (10-7, 1-3 American Athletic Conference) are at home, welcoming UCF to Minges Coliseum for a 7 p.m. game and the Knights (16-2, 5-0) are tied with Connecticut…

Houston SMU Basketball-6

January 22, 2019

After starting its season with a 4-3 win against James Madison, East Carolina’s men’s tennis team remained at home for its second match and it swept The Citadel 7-0.

The Pirates once again started the match with a 1-0 lead by claiming the doubles point. After dropping their first…


January 22, 2019

Jon Gilbert does not want to be the face of East Carolina athletics, and he said as much on Tuesday afternoon.

That certainly does not mean ECU’s new athletics director doesn’t want to make all the big decisions for Pirate sports and plot their collective strategy for success, but…


January 19, 2019

Despite a season-high 27 offensive rebounds, the ECU women’s basketball team could not convert the second chances into points and fell 58-46 at Memphis on Saturday afternoon.

ECU (10-7, 1-3 American Athletic Conference) was down to just eighth healthy players but also swiped 12 steals. That…


January 18, 2019

Last year, East Carolina women’s lacrosse was new enough that the team and its coaches did not yet know what they didn’t know.

As the team’s second-ever season is set to begin, so too is a whole new understanding of the game and its many nuances at the top college level. The 2018…


January 17, 2019

A letter from East Carolina athletics director Jon Gilbert addressed his first month-plus in charge of Pirate athletics and it also looked ahead to the future.

Gilbert posted an open letter to fans on the Pirates’ official website Thursday, saying that he will regularly use these “From…


January 17, 2019

One intriguing aspect of Wednesday night’s 85-74 victory for Temple basketball in Minges Coliseum was that Temple’s best player is senior guard Shizz Alston Jr. and East Carolina’s best player is freshman forward Jayden Gardner.

The pair of prolific scorers did not disappoint,…


January 16, 2019

Maryland’s hire of former East Carolina football head coach Scottie Montgomery as its offensive coordinator was made official by the Terrapins on Thursday. He also will serve as quarterbacks coach.

The hire should decrease what money ECU owes Montgomery. He was dismissed by the Pirates on Nov.…


January 16, 2019

Things went according to plan for East Carolina basketball in front of an eager and enthusiastic crowd for the first 10 seconds Wednesday night in Minges Coliseum.

Red-hot freshman Jayden Gardner made a basket for the Pirates shortly after tip-off, but Temple reeled off 21 straight points and…


January 16, 2019

East Carolina football head coach Mike Houston and his family are closing on a house this week and making the full move to Greenville next week.

Houston has made Greenville home basically since he was officially hired from James Madison on Dec. 3 to be the 22nd coach of the Pirates. He has been…

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