The East Carolina football team has begun preparations for Saturday’s game at South Florida still uncertain of whether quarterback Philip Nelson will be available. Nelson was knocked out of last week’s loss to Central Florida early in the fourth quarter after taking a high hit from Knights’ linebacker Mark Rucker, who was ejected from the game for targeting. Although Pirates’ coach Scottie Montgomery has not specified the nature of Nelson’s injury, it is potentially concussion related. Montgomery said at his regular weekly press conference Monday that he is “optimistic” Nelson will be ready to play on Saturday, saying that he “seemed to respond to treatment.” But he added that he won’t know more until later in the week. Nelson completed 26 of 43 passes for 296 yards, two touchdowns and an interception before leaving the game Saturday. ECU lost 47-29. He also led ECU in rushing. The senior transfer has hit on 70.5 percent of his throws for 1,753 yards and 11 scores this season. If he is not able to play, junior college transfer Garrett Minshew will likely be his replacement. Minshew threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Williams on his first pass as a Pirate, but was later intercepted for a UCF score that put the game out of reach. He finished 12 of 27 for 192 yards, a touchdown and two picks. “I would be remiss if I said he did a great job,” Montgomery said of Minshew. “But (it’s difficult) when you’re coming into a situation where your offense isn’t playing as well as it could be or you’re just transitioning into one of those spots where you know what you have to do because you’re not able to run the football. “We weren’t able to run in this game, which sometimes put us in a one-dimensional game. When that happens and you come in the game and make a throw for a big-time touchdown, you know that things are going to settle down for you a little bit. I thought, unfortunately, he didn’t make a great throw down there by the end zone. But that’s what happens when you don’t protect the quarterback or you bring a guy in trying to operate from your goal line or to win a game. That’s no ideal for anybody to come into.” While Minshew appears to be the first option if Nelson is not available, Montgomery suggested that hybrid back James Summers could also see time under center against USF. “That’s something we’ll have to move through when we get a little bit further down the game plan and see exactly where Phil is,” Montgomery said. Summers, who has seen time at running back, wide receiver and as a Wildcat quarterback this season, started four games at quarterback last season completing 60 of 94 passes for 683 yards and five touchdowns. He also ranked second on the team in rushing with 446 yards. ECU has lost three straight since opening the season with wins against Western Carolina and NC State.
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