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I got the surprise of my life when people were complaining about a DR editorial. You mean the BYH column is not the...

New week, new focus for Pirates

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East Carolina's head coach Mike Houston watches from behind the offense during a scrimmage on Aug. 10, 2019.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, August 12, 2019

A hot start by East Carolina football's offense during Saturday's scrimmage was still fresh on first-year Pirate coach Mike Houston's mind on Monday.

Film sessions followed by Monday morning's practice served as an ideal transition for the Pirates to move on from their first preseason scrimmage and gear up for another one this Saturday. Houston's post-practice comments Monday made it clear what areas will be in focus this week.

"We had two really good first drives offensively, then I thought we responded later in the scrimmage defensively," Houston said. "Urgency, playing with edge, physicality in the run game -- on both sides of the football -- and being able to consistently execute over an entire practice or an entire scrimmage, those are the areas coming out of last Saturday that we really need to improve on."

Quarterback Holton Ahlers was ECU's leading rusher in the scrimmage at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, producing a 56-yard touchdown run as part of his six carries for 113 yards. Reid Herring also was resourceful with his legs during a turnover-free day by the Pirates' two leading QBs.

"Both of them did some really positive things, and I was pleased with the fact that neither one of our first two quarterbacks turned the ball over on Saturday," Houston said. "That, and the lack of procedural penalties on offense, were two of the biggest pluses. ... We played a pretty clean scrimmage from that standpoint, with our 1s and 2s, on offense. That goes back to the quarterbacks managing those two units.”

Behind Ahlers and Herring at QB are freshmen Alex Flinn, Bryan Gagg and Zach Gwynn.

Depth on ECU's receiving corps has seen a retraction during preseason camp, as receiver Tahj Deans is no longer with the team and was officially removed from the roster. The former Southern Nash High School quarterback was working as a junior outside receiver for the Pirates this year. He caught one touchdown pass in 2018, which will serve as his final season at East Carolina.

One point of emphasis during Monday's practice was completing full install on special teams.

"Working the kickoff return today was the last (installment), so that was good to see," Houston said. "It was a solid day, but there are some things that we have to do better. Our actions have to reflect our words, so if we say that we are going to be a certain kind of team, then that is how we have to practice."

Mirroring last week's schedule, the Pirates are scheduled to practice every day in the buildup to Saturday's scrimmage. After the second preseason scrimmage, ECU will turn more of its attention to facing N.C. State in Raleigh on Aug. 31.

"I am pleased with the attitude as far as being coachable by our players, but we have to come along and we still have a long way to go before Aug. 31," Houston said.

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

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ECU

August 22, 2019

East Carolina’s first athletic event of the academic year started and stopped and continued again and stopped again, then was canceled because of inclement weather.

ECU’s women’s soccer team was not able to finish Thursday night’s match against George Mason, even with the…

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August 22, 2019

First-year East Carolina defensive coordinator Bob Trott and first-year Pirate football head coach Mike Houston were similar with their words Wednesday that they think they know what to expect from N.C. State's offense, but they said preparing for an opponent during Week 1 of the season is…

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August 21, 2019

Many intricacies and focuses for East Carolina football players have changed with Monday's start to the fall semester and the N.C. State game a little more than a week away, but Pirate coach Mike Houston had no plans of intensity dipping with the transition from preseason workouts to in-season and…

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August 20, 2019

No more waiting for Holton Ahlers or the rest of the East Carolina football team or Pirate fans.

With next Saturday’s noon kickoff at N.C. State getting closer and closer, first-year Pirate coach Mike Houston officially announced after Tuesday’s practice that Ahlers will be his…

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August 20, 2019

Quarterback Holton Ahlers led East Carolina’s football team in rushing last season with 592 yards and six touchdowns on 119 carries.

New offensive principles are in place at ECU under a new coaching staff, leading to some intrigue about Ahlers and his run availability. Would this staff, led…

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August 19, 2019

East Carolina first-year football coach Mike Houston described the Pirates' No. 1 center, Branden Pena, as a "tough joker" on Saturday.

The football-centric praise showed how far the relationship has come between Pena and Houston since December.

"Branden Pena is a guy that I didn't know his name…

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August 17, 2019

Moments of reflection Saturday brought East Carolina first-year head football coach Mike Houston back to the spring.

The physicality he saw Saturday during the Pirates' final preseason scrimmage was vastly different from the spring Purple-Gold Game.

Darius Pinnix displayed his punishing rushing…

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August 17, 2019

East Carolina’s football players were asked about their favorite ice cream flavor Saturday and they got the opportunity to pick on teammates, but there also were serious questions pointed their way about the Aug. 31 opener at N.C. State and the rest of an important season for the Pirates…

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August 17, 2019

In an exhibition match defined by defense, Jenna Dages scored the only goal for the East Carolina women’s soccer team to top VCU 1-0 on Friday night inside Johnson Stadium.

Dages’ goal came at the 45:34 mark. From there, goalie Meaghan Haley and ECU's defense helped to maintain the lead.…

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August 17, 2019

Here are five East Carolina football players who have stepped up during preseason camp and will be looking to continue their momentum when the Pirates complete camp with a scrimmage Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium:

1. Xavier Smith, linebacker: Smith has kind of quietly morphed from a tight end…

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