Changed ECU program remembers last meeting with NC State as they kick off against the Pack Saturday

#13 NC State vs ECU Saturday at Noon
Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 11:55 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - It’s technically game day right now based on hours to kick off. The Pirates host 13th ranked N.C. State Saturday at Noon. It’s officially a sellout crowd. Since the last time they met a lot has changed in Greenville. But the memory is still there.

“We got to control the ball all the way through the end zone,” said Mike Houston in 2019 after their loss at NC State, “They don’t give you any ribbons for coming close. That was a big play in the ball game because that completely changed the outlook of the first half.”

“Any time you hurt yourself it is going to hurt the team, hurt your momentum,” said Holton Ahlers after the 2019 loss, “We got to learn from it.”

But that was the start of the Pirates transformation. Bumps, bruises and football education later this year’s team has it in the memory bank.

“You know I do, you know I do,” says ECU senior linebacker Xavier Smith, “So I’m going to have my fun. You know how I play.”

“The program where it was at the time we played them is not where it is now,” says Ahlers.

A complete change of culture at ECU has fostered a belief now, each time they take the field, they believe they are going to win.

“There’s been a lot of work done in recruiting, in development, in growth,” says Houston.

For many of the players this in-state rivalry game hits on and off the field.

“One of the starting O-linemen Bryson Speas was my high school teammate at Dudley high school when we won states,” says ECU senior linebacker Myles Berry, “And a bunch of instate rivarlies there’s a bunch of those guys from Greensboro.”

“A bunch guys I got recruited with, and had relationships with, a bunch of those guys I played in the shrine bowl with. I know them pretty well,” says Ahlers, “Devin their quarterback was one of my roomates in the Manning Passing Academy so I know them pretty well.”

Two recent losses totaling 92-9 are very clear memories. But this year they are 0-0, and the underdogs.

“Everyone can be beat,” says Smith, “I hope they heads aren’t too big you know. We always play with a chip on our shoulder being East Carolina.”

“Having that in the back of my head is just more fuel to the fire. Honestly. Getting ready to go out there and play a great game,” says Berry, “Showcase really to the world just how we have been working, how we been training, because only really we know.”

Kickoff is coming up at noon on Saturday.

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