NORFOLK, Va. – East Carolina tries to defeat an FBS team for the first time this season and snap a 10-game road losing streak when it visits Old Dominion on Saturday. The Pirates, who have lost on the road to North Carolina State and Navy by a combined 76-16, defeated FCS members Gardner-Webb 48-9 on Sept. 7 and William & Mary 19-7 last week - a result that left coach Mike Houston optimistic that his club is on the right path.
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"We've got four million mistakes we've got to get corrected, but the way the kids competed in the second half, the way they fought to overcome some adversity, the way we played defense, the way we ran the football in the fourth quarter, that's what you've got to do to win ballgames," Houston told reporters. The Monarchs have lost two straight - 31-17 at Virginia Tech on Sept. 7 and 28-17 at No. 18 Virginia last week, when it blew a 17-0 lead. "What's encouraging is how well we played against two teams that we were massive underdogs against," Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder told reporters. "In both games we had an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter. We've just got to make a couple of more plays. If we'd done that, it could have been a different story." The Pirates outgained the Monarchs 492-271 last season but needed a 38-yard field goal by Jake Verity with 46 seconds remaining to prevail 37-35.
ABOUT EAST CAROLINA (2-2)
Sophomore quarterback Holton Ahlers has rushed for team highs of 185 yards and three touchdowns against two passing TDs and three interceptions. Sophomore wide receiver Blake Proehl tops the club in receptions (18) and yards (183) while senior wide receiver Deondre Farrier (eight catches, 93 yards) has caught a pass in 16 straight games. Sophomore linebacker Xavier Smith paces the defense with 29 tackles and has three passes defended while senior defensive lineman Alex Turner leads with three sacks.
ABOUT OLD DOMINION (1-2)
Junior quarterback Stone Smartt (one passing touchdown, two interceptions) threw for a career-high 206 yards and a score against Virginia and owns four of the Monarchs' six rushing TDs this season. Sophomore cornerback Geronda Hall (career-high 10 tackles last week) and junior linebacker Lawrence Garner share the team lead in tackles with 25 apiece, and spearhead a defense that is 21st nationally in rushing yards allowed at 87.9 yards per game - fewest among Conference USA teams. Sophomore defensive end Keion White recorded six tackles - 3.5 for loss with a sack - versus Virginia in a breakout game for the converted tight end.
1. The Pirates are 1-17 on the road since the start of 2016 with the only win at Connecticut 41-38 in 2017.
2. The Monarchs held Virginia to 244 yards - their fewest allowed against an FBS team. Old Dominion's previous low was 370 in a 35-24 loss at Pittsburgh in 2013.
3. East Carolina junior QB Reid Herring and senior RB Hussein Howe on Tuesday announced they are entering the transfer portal. Herring served as Ahlers' backup.
PREDICTION: Old Dominion 24, East Carolina 23