Hard hit set the tone for ECUs defense vs. NC State

Scottie Mongtomery called the targeting penalty a coachable moment

GREENVILLE — The sellout crowd at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium booed loudly when the call was made, but the hit by East Carolina’s Bobby Fulp on NC State receiver Stephen Louis so clearly fit the definition of targeting that all eight officials on the field threw their flags.After a quick mandatory review, Fulp was ejected from Saturday’s rivalry football game with 4:22 still remaining in the first quarter.It was a loss that meant the Pirates would have to play the final three-plus quarters without their starting strong safety and figured to put a damper on their ability to stop the Wolfpack’s passing attack.Only instead of looking at the situation as a disadvantage like virtually everyone else in the stadium at the time, Fulp’s teammates viewed the ejection with a much more positive attitude.”Him doing that really set the tone for our defense to let (NC State’s) offense know that it’s not going to be easy just coming across the middle,” outside linebacker Dayon Pratt said of Fulp following ECU’s emotional 33-30 victory. “The next time they did that, they’d have second thoughts about catching that ball. So him doing that really helped our team. Even though he sat out, that was a big asset.”Though it’s debatable as to the extent Wolfpack receivers heard footsteps for the remainder of the game, especially after State rallied for 20 points in the second quarter, the Pirates’ secondary still managed to hold its own despite its early handicap.After allowing 161 yards and a touchdown in the first half, ECU limited the Wolfpack’s Ryan Finley to 93 yards and no passing scores over the final two periods.One reason for that success was the play of Fulp’s backup DaShawn Benton.The 6-foot, 196-pound senior, who has started seven games in his career with the Pirates, tied for fourth on the team with five tackles against State while also breaking up a pass.”Once Bobby went out, we were confident in DaShawn Benton because he’s done it for us before,” linebacker Terrell Richardson said.”Our depth is good,” added cornerback Corey Seargent. “We practice with ones and twos, threes. No matter if anyone comes out, we’re confident in the next person that comes in to do the job.”As proud as coach Scottie Montgomery was of the way Fulp handled his ejection and the performance of the defense his absence, the rookie coach said that he and his staff will work with their players at practice this week in an effort to avoid future targeting calls.Not only did the senior safety miss most of Saturday’s win against the Wolfpack, but under NCAA rules he’ll also be suspended for the first half of this week’s game at South Carolina.”I told (the defense) to keep playing the way they’d been playing,” Montgomery said. “Lower their hitting target, but keep playing the way you’re playing.”We can coach better on that one. We’ll coach him to lower his target a little bit better there and we can get those penalties even lower.”