ECU’s Montgomery faces challenges
East Carolina Chancellor Cecil Staton issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon clarifying that football coach Scottie Montgomery’s future won’t be decided until the final three games are played.
Montgomery’s three-year record is 8-25 overall and 3-19 in American Athletic Conference play following last week’s loss at Tulane that dropped the Pirates’ 2018 marks to 2-7 and 0-6 in the AAC East.
But with no athletic director in place since Jeff Compher was fired in March, the administration had previously been quiet as speculation surrounding the program grew as the losses have mounted and the crowds dwindled.
“While we are aware of the speculation concerning leadership of our football program, it would be inappropriate to address it during a time when our student-athletes and coaches deserve everyone’s unequivocal support. An assessment of the program will be made at the conclusion of the season. This program relies on the passion of our fan base and a commitment administratively that will enable the team to be in the best position possible to succeed with minimal distractions over the next three weeks.”
ECU plays its final home game against Connecticut (1-9, 0-6 AAC East) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Louisville’s Bobby Petrino, fired on Sunday, had been the top name last week on the hot seat list compiled by Dennis Dodd of CBSsports.com. Other coaches rated as “win or be fired” are Montgomery, North Carolina’s Larry Fedora, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder and Rutgers’ Chris Ash.
“There have been conversations between several people that I won’t talk about publicly” Montgomery said. “Most of my time, 99 percent of it, is making sure we put the best players on the football field, keep our kids healthy and give our offense, defense and special teams the best chance to win.”
If he is fired, how can the Pirates expect to hold together 21 verbal commitments? The list includes Rivals.com 4-star defensive end Traeveon Freshwater of Elizabeth City and six other 3-star prospects.
ECU already has suffered three de-commitments in the past two months: 3-star linebacker Darius Williams, Miami (Fla.) Norland; 3-star “athlete” Malik Richardson, Sumter (S.C.) Lakewood; and 2-star offensive guard Nishad Strother, Havelock (N.C.) High.
CUTCLIFFE BACKS MONTGOMERY
Duke coach David Cutcliffe says week-to-week game-planning prevents finding time to place a phone call to support Montgomery, his former offensive coordinator.
But that doesn’t stop the coaching mentor from sending an encouraging text, even with No. 2-ranked Clemson next for the Blue Devils. Cutcliffe understands the pressure the Pirates are under to claim only their third win of the season and first on their American Athletic Conference slate.
“I hate that I don’t talk to those guys,” Cutcliffe said. “I’m pulling hard for Scottie and that whole staff. I know how good of a football coach he is, but I’m not sure what he’s thinking right now. I know they’re favored and hope they play well. They’re at home and that’s important to them.”
ECU has lost six straight and UConn seven, so both teams enjoy a reprieve from the gauntlet of top half of the AAC East.
ECU has lost to No. 11 Central Florida (9-0, 6-0), 37-10; Temple (6-4, 5-1), 49-6; South Florida (7-3, 3-3), 20-13; and still has No. 24 Cincinnati (9-1, 5-1) next week. UConn has fallen to UCF, 56-17; Cincinnati, 49-7; USF, 38-30; and still has Temple remaining.
For several weeks this game has been viewed as both teams’ best chance for a victory.
“We’re not good enough to look ahead,” UConn coach Randy Edsall said. “The challenge for us is to try and get better each week. This just happens to be the week we play East Carolina.”
After Cincinnati, ECU has one more non-conference game Dec. 2 at formerly ranked N.C. State (6-3). It’s a replacement for both schools having canceled contests due to Hurricane Florence.
ECU is eighth in the nation and first in the AAC with 320.2 yards passing per game following true freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers’ three starts. He threw for 406, UCF; 449, Memphis; and 360, Tulane.
In last week’s 24-18 loss at Tulane, Ahlers was only 21-of-67 with two touchdowns and one interception, but the low percentage (.313) was from following instructions to throw the ball away rather than take hits or force passes. ECU, due to injuries, finished the contest with a third-team center and fourth-team right guard.
“A lot of the incompletions were thrown out of bounds,” Montgomery said. “Also we dropped more than a few balls in one-on-one situations. Some of those incompletions have to be spread around.”