East Carolina’s bowl hopes can best be summed up by a line from Jim Carrey’s character in the movie Dumb and Dumber. “So you’re telling me there’s still a chance?” Yes, there is. But for that to happen the the Pirates are going to have to win at least three of their final four games. Even though Tulsa sports a 6-2 overall record and is tied for the lead in the American Athletic Conference West at 3-1, this might be ECU’s best shot at victory in a tough closing stretch. The Pirates (3-5, 1-3) are coming off a strong, winning performance and Tulsa has had to struggle for several of its victories, including two in overtime. Here are five things to watch as coach Scottie Montgomery’s team continues its uphill climb to those six wins needed for bowl eligibility:Second verse, same as the first It’s said that in baseball, momentum is only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher. But because of the emotional nature of football, especially college football, it’s much more possible for there to be a carryover effect from one game to the next. That’s what Montgomery and his staff are hoping for coming off their team’s best overall performance of the season. The Pirates entered last week’s game against UConn among the worst in the nation in sacks, turnover margin and red zone efficiency. They managed to correct all those problems by recording four sacks, going plus-three on turnovers and converting all five of their trips inside the 20 into points — including four touchdowns. It’s a formula that translated into a 41-3 rout and the end of a five-game losing streak. “All in all, we played really hard and did a good job together,” Montgomery said. “When one phase played well, the other came out and played well. When one phase plays well, if everyone else can take it up a notch, you have a chance to change games and that’s what really happened in the third quarter. That was a connection of some good football played and it changed the whole outcome of the football game.” Now the trick is to do it again, against a much more proficient opponent.Glory road One thing ECU had going for it last week is that it was playing at home for the first time in a month, on Homecoming no less. Somehow though, they’re going to have to find a way to generate and keep the same kind of energy in hostile territory. That’s something the Pirates have had a hard time doing this year. They’re 0-4 on the road. The silver lining to that poor record is that in the three previous seasons prior to 2016, ECU amassed 15 victories away from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. It should also be noted that several upperclassmen on the current roster have already enjoyed success at Tulsa, having won there in 2014.Outwit, outplay, outlast Get your calculators out, because if the tendencies of these teams hold, tonight’s game has the potential to produce a basketball-line score. Tulsa comes in ranked second in the AAC in scoring at 42.1 points per game and third in the league in total offense at 499.1 The Pirates, meanwhile, are No. 1 in the ACC in total offense and 503.2 yards per game and while their average of 28.5 points per game isn’t that impressive, it has the potential to improve if they show the same kind of red zone efficiency they did against UConn last week. Another factor working in ECU’s favor is that despite their status as the AAC West co-leaders, the Golden Hurricanes are dead last in the conference with an average of 31.9 points allowed. They gave up 41 points in an overtime win against Fresno State and 40 in another overtime win against SMU. This may be one of those games that comes down to which team has the ball last. If it does, and ECU has the final possession, you have to like its chances the way Philip Nelson has been throwing the ball when healthy. Oh Zay can you see All eyes will be on the Pirates’ Zay Jones, which is understandable since the senior wide receiver leads the nation in receptions with 114 through the first eight games this season. Even though everyone in the stadium knows that Jones is going to get the ball, it’s almost guaranteed that he’ll still get his share of catches. But if the Golden Hurricanes defense gets too caught up in trying to shut the Pirates’ top gun down, especially on short and intermediate routes, they’ll leave themselves open to getting burned deep by ECU’s not-so-secret weapon Jimmy Williams. Williams ranks ninth nationally and leads the AAC in yards per catch at 20.3 and his six touchdowns are three more than Jones has scored this season.Series history Despite the disparity in this year’s record, the Pirates have to feel good about their chances against the Golden Hurricane today. Not only have they won six straight in the series and lead 8-5 all-time dating back to their first meeting in 1984, but they’ve also won three straight and four of six games that have been played at Tulsa. ECU also has a history of shutting down the Golden Hurricanes’ high-powered offense. Last year in Greenville, Tulsa came into the game ranked seventh nationally in total offense. But with the help of a 100-yard pick six by Josh Hawkins, another turnover and four sacks, the Pirates held Tulsa scoreless for the first three periods on the way to a 30-17 victory.
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