After leading 12-0 early, East Carolina (2-0) found itself behind on three different occasions, but the determined Pirates wouldn’t be denied. With a rowdy crowd of 50,719—the second largest in program history—on hand, ECU used a 5-yard touchdown run by junior Anthony Scott with just under 6 minutes remaining to top NC State, 33-30, on Saturday afternoon at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville.
Following the victory—which was ECU’s third straight over NC State and sixth consecutive against ACC competition, first-year ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery talk about the resiliency of his football team.
“First of all, I’ve got to take my hat off to Coach Doeren and NC State..... good football team. They were as physical as advertised....a lot of times we couldn’t get ‘em on the ground....sometimes we couldn’t block ‘em, but what we did do today is we played together. When we had some lapses on defense, offense picked it up. When offense had some lapses and not being able to block ‘em, defense made some critical stops.”
Montgomery, who consistently recognizes and embraces ECU’s football culture and passionate fanbase, was also quick to give credit to the atmosphere that the Pirate Nation created.
“Our fans showed up today and they showed out. It was so loud at one point in the game that I was trying to talk to our coaches on the headset and they could not hear me. I appreciate that,” said Montgomery.
The large and raucous crowd had plenty to get excited about early.
The Pirate defense, which did surrender 497 total yards—including 215 rushing, forced a three and out on NC State’s opening drive.
The ECU offense quickly moved into the red zone after Philip Nelson connected with Jimmy Williams for a 33-yard completion to the Wolfpack 10-yard line that eventually led to a 23-yard Davis Plowman field goal.
After NC State’s next possession resulted in a failed 44-yard field goal by Connor Haskins, the Pirates needed just 4 plays to go 73 yards.
The drive commenced with quarterback Philip Nelson connecting with James Summers for 39 yards. It concluded when the versatile Summers bounced an inside run play to reach pay dirt from 27 yards out and give ECU a 9-0 lead. Following a holding penalty, Plowman couldn’t convert the second attempt at the PAT.
Following another Haskins’ errant field goal attempt, the Pirates went 49 yards in 15 plays and extended their lead to 12-0 with 12 minutes left in the half when Plowman split the uprights on a 43-yarder.
The Wolfpack needed a spark and powerful sophomore running back Reggie Gallaspy II provided one when he took it 37 yards to the end zone with Pirate safety Travon Simmons bouncing off him in the process.
Trailing 12-7, NCSU’s Jack Tocho intercepted Philip Nelson’s first down deep ball intended for Zay Jones and 5 plays later the Pack found themselves with a 13-12 advantage after Jaylen Samuels literally jogged in from 5 yards out.
The Pirates quickly retook the lead when Nelson found a wide open Anthony Scott on a wheel route out of the backfield for a 25-yard score that capped a 5-play, 75-yard drive that consumed less than two minutes.
The Wolfpack—which scored on their final three possessions of the half—wasted no time moving back in front, as 19 seconds later Ryan Finley hooked up with Stephen Louis for an 80-yard touchdown that made it 20-19.
ECU had a chance to take a 22-20 lead into the break, but Davis Plowman missed a field goal from 41 yards out after a running into the kicker call allowed him another opportunity after his miss from 46.
With the Pack still clinging to a 20-19 lead midway through the third quarter, they took over deep in Pirates’ territory after a Anthony Scott fumble. The ECU defense stood tall and forced NCSU to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Kyle Bambard and a 23-19 lead.
Philip Nelson proceeded to complete his next six passes to get ECU into the red zone before getting temporarily knocked out of the game, but James Summers stepped in and finished off the drive in style. He showed why the Pirates’ offensive coordinator Tony Petersen described his running style as “violent” when he broke multiple tackles and carried a few NCSU defenders into the end zone.
The impressive 15-yard run and subsequent PAT gave ECU a 26-23 lead that they would carry into the fourth quarter.
As the final period began, the teams continued to answer each other.
First, the Wolfpack went 90 yards in 12 plays and took the lead when Ryan Finley went into the end zone untouched on a read play from 15 yards out that placed NCSU ahead 30-26 with 13:04 left.
Following another poor kickoff return, the ensuing ECU drive began on its own 16 yards line. Senior signal-caller Philip Nelson engineered a 14-play, 84-yard drive that featured multiple 3rd down conversions and a crucial defensive pass interference call on third down that gave the Pirates first and goal at the 8-yard line. Two plays later, Scott rumbled in for the decisive score from five yards out.
NC State’s Nyheim Hines mishandled the ensuing kickoff and got tackled at the 4-yard line. The Wolfpack picked up two first downs, but was then forced to punt with 2:45 and 3 timeouts remaining.
ECU picked up a first down, but the Pirates were unable to get the second to exhaust the clock and had to rely on its defense to get one more stop when it punted the ball back with 58 seconds left.
A poor Worth Gregory punt allowed NCSU to take over at its own 38 with 51 seconds and no timeouts.
After a 2-yard completion to Matt Dayes cost the Pack 20 seconds, Ryan Finley found Bra’Lon Cherry for 14 yards to get into ECU territory at the 46.
Two incomplete passes later, NC State had time for one or two plays with 8 seconds to go. Finley’s pass was completed to Cherry again, but the 21-yard again was in the middle of the field and the final seconds ticked off the clock as Cherry was being tackled at the ECU 25.
The Pirates’ sideline stormed the field in excitement and after shaking NC State head coach Dave Doeren’s hand, Scottie Montgomery sprinted over and gave the “No Quarter” (crossed forearms in a crossbones shape) to the boisterous crowd.
The Pirates’ defense had its share of struggles, but they made some critical red zone stops and stood tall with the game on the line.
The Pack’s Ryan Finley, who converted multiple deep balls, was 20-of-31 for 254 yards.
Meanwhile, the powerful NCSU ground game produced 215 yards. Matt Dayes tallied 103 yards on 14 carries and 54 of that came on a single play. Gallaspy had 5 carries for 61 yards—37 of which came on his second quarter scoring jaunt.
Stephen Louis had 3 catches for 142 yards to lead Pack receivers.
Philip Nelson had another solid performance for the Pirates. He went 33-for-43 for 297 yards and a score. The mobile quarterback sustained a few big blows from the talented defensive front of NCSU, but showed tremendous toughness with his increasing willingness to stand in and make throws as the game wore on.
ECU had four receivers with at least five receptions. Quay Johnson led the way with his career-high 13 catches for 75 yards. Zay Jones hauled in 7 balls for 73 yards. Jimmy Williams (5 for 59) and Anthony Scott (6 for 49) also had big days catching the football.
A ground game that produced 148 was good at times, but not nearly as consistent as ECU would have liked. Devin Anderson led the Pirates with 52 yards on nine attempts and a long of 28. Summers and Scott finished with 41 each (on 6 and 11 carries, respectively).
Now, ECU will venture on the road for the first time under its new head coach as it will travel to SEC foe South Carolina.
The Wolfpack will return home and attempt to get its season back on track versus Old Dominion. The Monarchs are coming off a 31-7 defeat at Appalachian State last Saturday.
*Check back with UnderdogDynasty.com throughout the week as we will take a look ahead to ECU’s match-up with the South Carolina Gamecocks and other games on the docket for American Conference teams.