East Carolina takes down NC State 33-30 for huge in-state win

Pirates come from behind to take down Wolfpack for Montgomerys first win in in-state rivalry.

GREENVILLE — NC State did its talking during the week leading up to the game. East Carolina did its talking with its play on the field. The Pirates answered the inflammatory comments of their in-state rival the best way possible Saturday — with their actions, not their words, as they sweated out a 33-30 victory against their in-state rival at a steamy Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Philip Nelson completed 17 of his 18 passes in the second half and Anthony Scott bounced back from a lost fumble to score the go-ahead touchdown with 5:49 remaining to give ECU an emotional victory made all the more meaningful by the bulletin board material coming out of Raleigh from State coach Dave Doeren and several of his players. “I want to tell them to zip it up, still,” senior linebacker Dayon Pratt said. “But I’m not going to do that. I think winning is telling them everything they need to know.” Saturday’s victory was ECU’s third straight against State. It was also its sixth straight against ACC competition and seventh in a row against opponents from within the state of North Carolina. Though coach Scottie Montgomery, his staff and his team went out of their way to downplay the importance of the rivalry with State and the importance of their success against their closest neighbors in their pregame comments, the celebration that followed the final play gave a much more accurate glimpse of the game’s meaning. The Pirates rushed the field as though they had won a championship after the Wolfpack’s Bra’Lon Cherry was pulled down by DaShawn Benton and Travon Simmons at the ECU 24-yard line as time expired. “We didn’t have any meetings where we talked about the streak or anything like that. We talked about the detailed execution of fundamental football,” Montgomery said. “That’s what we’ll continue to talk about. “This is a big-time football school. Everybody knows that. I’ve said it before, when you come down here and you’re a big opponent, we’re a big opponent. So we’re concentrating on what we have to concentrate on.” That attention to the detail, more than the emotion of the moment — which was stoked by raucous sellout crowd of 50,719 — is what proved to the biggest difference between the Pirates and Wolfpack. While ECU made its share of miscues, including a first half interception that led to a Wolfpack touchdown and the Scott fumble that set up a field goal that extended State’s lead to 23-19 late in the third quarter. The Pirates also missed a field goal — despite kicker Davis Plowman getting two tries at it — and suffered a key personnel loss when starting strong safety Bobby Fulp was ejected for targeting. Despite those problems, ECU was flawless when it had to be. It started with do-it-all star James Summers running around, over and through the Wolfpack defense for a 15-yard touchdown one player after Nelson was temporarily knocked out of the game by a late hit from State’s Chubb. “That meant a lot to me, because they had a late hit on Phil,” said Summers, who played quarterback, running back and wide receiver in the game while rushing for two touchdowns and set up another score with a 39-yard reception. “I just told myself to keep moving until I got in the end zone.” Then, after State regained the lead on a Ryan Finley run early in the fourth quarter, Nelson came back into the game to lead what turned out to be a 14-play, 84-yard drive that took up more than seven minutes on the clock. Nelson completed 33 of 43 passes for 297 yards and a touchdown in his second ECU start. “We didn’t let the moment get too big,” the transfer from Minnesota and Rutgers said. “But this was intense. It definitely feels good.” As satisfying a win it was for Nelson, a Minnesota native playing an in-state opponent for the first time, it was even bigger for North Carolina natives that make up the majority of the Pirates’ roster. And their coach. “I’m a North Carolinian from Day 1,” Montgomery said. “I was born here, I was raised here. I learned how to coach here. Every single thing about it me is all about North Carolina. “The biggest deal about this win is that our kids are from all around this state and they’re going against kids that are from the same area. Now for the next however long it is before we play them again, we’re the victor. From a recruiting standpoint to a walking around in the mall standpoint, it feels really good. Our kids will remember this the rest of their lives.”