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Gore a full-go for Pirates

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East Carolina's Colby Gore celebrates after making an interception during a game against Connecticut on Nov. 17, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

After grinding as a third-teamer during spring practice and preseason camp and serving a two-game suspension to begin his senior season, East Carolina cornerback Colby Gore has positioned himself again as a starter, and the Pirates want to keep it that way.

Gore started against Navy last Saturday in a 42-10 setback by the Pirates, teaming with talented true freshman Ja'Quan McMillian to try to stabilize the cornerback position. McMillian is the only corner to start all three of ECU's games, and former starter Mike Witherspoon is now listed as a co-backup with Damel Hickman behind Gore.

"There was some good and some bad on Saturday, but certainly Colby is a talented player," Pirate coach Mike Houston said. "He has started a lot of ball games here, and his ability has stood out ever since I got here (in December) and took the job. It certainly can be a boost for us having him back in the lineup.”

Houston said last week that Gore's suspension stemmed from a mistake during the winter and that he faced his consequences prior to being fully reinstated to play at Navy.

ECU (1-2) ranks 56th in the country in pass defense, allowing 204.7 yards through the air per outing, but also is 106th in red zone efficiency defense.

Like it was against Navy, despite being a very different scheme, the Pirate defense will face a William & Mary team (2-1) from the Football Championship Subdivision on Saturday that is led by its running game.

Tribe quarterback Hollis Mathis is his team's leading rusher and has only one touchdown pass compared to two interceptions. The starting running back is 5-foot-11, 215-pound sophomore Owen Wright, who ran for a career-high 108 yards last week in a win over Colgate.

ECU was solid against Navy fullback Nelson Smith up front, but it was quarterback Malcolm Perry who got loose and rushed for 156 yards and four touchdowns and enjoyed seeing wide-open receivers at times to pass for two more TDs.

"It comes down to making adjustments and a discipline kind of thing, but I'm not going to say anything bad about my guys in the backfield,” said ECU senior team captain and nose guard Alex Turner, who has three sacks this year, after the defeat to the Midshipmen to begin American Athletic Conference play. "Those are my guys and I trust them 100 percent. We are going to get it straight and will be better next time."

Gore has 30 career starts and three interceptions. The 5-11, 180-pound Little River, S.C., native also could be used as a kick returner at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday, along with receivers Tyler Snead, Deondre Farrier and Jsi Hatfield.

Gore's career-high for tackles in a game was 12 against Tulsa in 2016.

The Pirates' last game versus an FCS opponent was Week 2 in a 48-9 rout of Gardner-Webb, when McMillian and linebacker Gerard Stringer each grabbed an interception for ECU's two INTs so far this year.

East Carolina defensive coordinator Bob Trott has shied away from substituting players frequently during games, which is noteworthy for this week as William & Mary's quick-hitting "go-go" offense is based on tempo.

"They are going to move at a very fast pace at times, so we have to be on it defensively," Houston said. "We have to really be communicating and lined up and make sure everybody is on the same page. We have to really focus on that side of the ball, because you have to be able to give them different looks even though they are going really fast."

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

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