DALLAS – East Carolina have played four quarters against a ranked team for the second week in a row, but the feeling is similar and it has not won this season at the American Athletics Conference after a loss of 59 -51 to 23rd SMU.
Here are three answers of the game:
1. How many yards per ecu QB Holton Ahlers? 498, giving him a total of 1,033 over two weeks against ranked teams (Cincinnati, SMU). He scored six touchdowns and no interceptions. The last two games have been fierce defeats for the Pirates, but Ahlers blossomed at the end of his second season and gained new confidence that he did not seem to have earlier in the year.
"We knew they had two good receivers and a good quarterback, but I think we too," said Ahlers, a native of Greenville who now owns the No. 1 and No. 2 passing games in the yards. History of the school.
Important Saturday for Ahlers was 32 finishes on 42 passes for a very good completion percentage. He was not intercepted and was fired twice by an aggressive SMU defense, the country's top finish with one sack per game.
"He feels comfortable in the offensive," said Pirates coach Mike Houston.
SMU veteran quarterback Shane Buechele was also prolific, finishing 33-for-46 with 414 yards, five touchdowns and early interception.
2. Impact on special teams? Special teams were not an important factor until they were largely taken into account in the failed Pirates hit, which was very untimely. After SMU scored a touchdown on a game at 4 and 20 for an advance of 52 to 44, while it was only 7:25, the ensuing kickoff was blocked by Jsi Hatfield and Tyler Snead and recovered by SMU. The hosts then scored a crucial touchdown, taking a 59-44 lead at 4:18.
Houston was frank and supportive of both players, about the special teams goof, at his post-game press conference. They are first-year students and Houston's portrayal of their description is optimistic and excited for their future.
It was otherwise a trouble free day on special teams. ECU kicker, Jake Verity, made another remarkable 3-in-3 outing on goals. He passed Chris Johnson on the all-time list of the ECU.
Security SMU Trevor Denbow hit three times, none of them returned by the Pirates.
3. How many SMU bags? Two. The Mustangs were able to put pressure on Ahlers early in the game, but the ECU's O-Line has adjusted and flourished over the past three quarters. The Mustangs had three QBs in a hurry. John Spellacy Center did not play, Branden Pena having returned to the center and Matt Morgan started the right guard after spending most of the year at the tackle. Freshman Noah Henderson was still good at the RT.
Ahlers was calm and intelligent reading the pocket. One of his touchdown passes, to Snead, showed him rolling to his right then backing to his left and finding Snead in the end zone for a QB patient game.
The ECU did not lose due to its attack, outweighing the 644-636 Mustangs.
Contact Ronnie Woodward at [email protected] at 252-329-9592 and follow @ RonnieW11 on Twitter.