East Carolina offense struggles in loss at Georgia State

The Pirates fell to 0-2 on the season

East Carolina head coach Mike Houston runs the sidelines during the half of an NCAA college football game against Central Florida in Greenville, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

East Carolina couldn’t have asked for a better start to its game with Georgia State, but things quickly nosedived after that.

On the first snap of the game, Pirates safety Warren Saba picked off a pass from Cornelious Brown IV and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown.

Six seconds into the game, ECU led 7-0. The next 59:54 belonged to the Panthers.

Georgia State scored touchdowns on its next three drives and four of the next five, putting up more points (28) than yards gained by East Carolina (25) over that span.

Georgia State led 21-7 after the first quarter, 35-13 at the half, and never looked back, cruising to a 49-29 win over the Pirates, who fell to 0-2 on the year.

Three thoughts

1. ECU quarterback Holton Ahlers had a rough day. He was sacked four times and eluded pressure on several other occasions. Ahlers completed 29 of 50 passes for 242 yards and threw three interceptions, including matching Georgia State’s game-opening pick-six with one of his own in the fourth quarter, as Antavious Lane intercepted him and returned it 33 yards for a score.

2. ECU’s special teams came up big on back-to-back plays. With the offense producing just three field goals through three-plus quarters, the Pirates scored on a fake field goal and a blocked punt to cut a 27-point deficit to 13. Special teams outscored the offense 14-8 in the game.

3. East Carolina’s running game was also ineffective. The Pirates rushed 26 times for a 1.9 yard per carry average. However, 31 yards came from a fake field goal. On run plays by the offense, ECU rushed 25 times for 19 yards, a 0.8 yard average.

Number to Know

248 —  The Panthers rushed for 248 yards, an average of 5.6 per carry, and scored three touchdowns. Destin Coates, who entered the game leading the nation in rushing, gained 113 yards on the ground, scoring twice.

They Said It

“The East Carolina offensive line has been as effective as a screen door submarine”

— ESPNU analyst Dustin Fox

Player of the Game

Tyler Snead, ECU wide receiver — The sophomore was a bright spot for a Pirates offense that struggled to find a spark. Snead had 11 catches for 111 yards, nearly half of Ahlers’ passing output, and produced a touchdown when he took the snap 31 yards on a fake field goal in the fourth quarter.

Critical thinking

Outside of Snead and Blake Proehl, who had 11 catches for 83 yards and blocked the punt that led to a touchdown, the offense didn’t have many go-to players. ECU will need to find more playmakers, stat.