ECU concentrating on eliminating correctable mistakes

As self-destructive as the Pirates were, Saturday at South Carolina, coach Scottie Montgomery took solace in the fact that a majority of his teams mistakes were correctable.

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
ECU's Anthony Scott (3) is tackled by NC State defenders during the most recent meeting between the Pirates and Wolfpack in 2016 (Eamon Queeney/North State Journal)

As self-destructive as the Pirates were Saturday at South Carolina, coach Scottie Montgomery took solace in the fact that a majority of his team’s mistakes were correctable.East Carolina football coach Scottie Montgomery was asked earlier this week if he’d ever been part of a game in which a team turned the ball over three times inside its opponent’s five-yard line, as his Pirates did last Saturday at South Carolina.”I don’t know if I’ve even watched one where that happened,” he said. “I hope that’s the last time I ever witness a game like that, unless it’s for the other team.”As much as Montgomery would like to forget the mistakes that led to a 20-15 loss to the Gamecocks, he and his staff forced themselves to relive the nightmare one more time Sunday night, just to get a firm grip on what exactly went wrong.The film session turned out to be more therapeutic than enlightening.While the comedy of errors was anything but a laughing matter, it didn’t take a lot of analyzing to ascertain why the Pirates lost a game in which they ran 38 more plays, outgained the opposition by more than 200 yards and yielded only a single field goal over the final three-plus quarters.”As we move forward, we have to understand that those things we did from a mistake standpoint, we were able to see that very easy on tape,” Montgomery said. “When you lose a game like this, you can see the reasons why you lost. Sometimes when you lose games, guys want to look around and try to figure out why we lost. This week it was very clear why we lost.”As obvious as the problems may have been, they still took Montgomery by surprise considering how cleanly ECU played in its first games under the rookie coach.The Pirates committed only seven penalties combined in home wins against Western Carolina and NC State, but were flagged eight times in the loss to the Gamecocks. After scoring on nine of their first 10 red zone possessions — including seven touchdowns — the Pirates came away empty on four straight trips inside the opponent’s 5-yard line in Columbia.ECU lost two fumbles, was intercepted twice in or near the end zone, missed a field goal and got off to a dismal start by allowing USC’s A.J. Turner to return the opening kickoff 80 yards.As self-destructive as the Pirates were, Montgomery took solace in his postgame comments from the fact that a majority of the mistakes his team made were correctable.The process of fixing them began almost immediately.”It’s the 12-hour rule,” said quarterback Philip Nelson, whose 400-yard passing performance was marred by three of the turnovers. “You sit there and think about it a little bit, reflect on it, then you move on and turn to the next page. Time doesn’t stop. It’s a big deal for us to take in the teaching moments and be able to move on.”The most important teaching moments have centered around making better decisions and holding onto the football. It’s a process that was actually aided by the wet weather in which the Pirates were forced to practice on Tuesday.”It was a blessing to be out there in the rain,” said Montgomery, who estimated that “about 50 percent” of his team’s mistakes from Saturday have already been fixed. “We spent about 15 minutes on just ball security.”Those drills were especially important for leading rusher Anthony Scott, whose reliability has come into question after fumbling three times in the last two games. Two of those fumbles were lost, including one as he struggled to get into the end zone early in the fourth quarter against USC.Unlike like the previous week when Montgomery went right back to Scott for the winning touchdown against NC State, the ECU coach made a change last Saturday by using backup Devin Anderson for what turned out to be the Pirates’ final drive of the game.Anderson ended up scoring ECU’s only touchdown on a four-yard pass from Nelson with 2:29 left.Though Scott is still listed as the starter on the depth chart for this week’s game at Virginia Tech, Montgomery left little doubt that the junior running back will be on a short leash.”There are three things you can do to correct the way that you carry or stop fumbling the football,” the coach said. “The first is how you coach it. The second thing is how you carry it. The third thing and how to fix it is you have to play somebody else.”Those three things are what you have to look at from a standpoint of protecting the football. We’re going to address every one of those situations. Everyone understands the importance of taking care of the football.”