The lion share of the blame for the unit's struggles and ECU only being ahead by a possession, 21-13, in the fourth quarter has been cast upon junior placekicker Warren Harvey, despite there being numerous miscues from several different players.
Indeed, Harvey has struggled to recapture his confidence ever since missing three kicks in the Pirates' triple overtime loss at Tulane. Interestingly enough, he still made four field goals in that game. But with kicking being highly-dependent on confidence and mental makeup, ECU has taken a look at back-up kicker Davis Plowman.
Plowman, a sophomore from Roswell Ga., transferred to ECU from Texas A&M last year and was expected to be the team's placekicker of the future. Nobody expected that future would be this soon when Harvey was named onto the Lou Groza Award Watch List; an award annually awarded to college football's best kicker. Also, Harvey's missed PAT on Saturday was his first ever at the collegiate level.
The coaching staff hopes competition will make Harvey better and allow him to regain his confidence this weekend against Tulsa.
"Just like you do with every position, you're always in competition and that's where we are right now," said special teams coordinator Kirk Doll after Wednesday evening's practice. "Whoever is going to help our football team is going to be our kicker.
"We'll go back in and add everything up. It's been very close."
As Saturday gets closer and with an opportunity to see his first playing time of the season, Plowman has not listened to the noise. Thus, he has not approached his preparation any differently.
"We always compete week in and week out, every day, trying to push each other to be the best we can be. And we're just trying to do what's best for the team by making our kicks and that's all anyone can ask for," said Plowman.
Although, the kicker gets the most attention, last weekend's performance by ECU's special teams might have been its worst of the season.
There was a 22-yard punt return that led to points for Florida International, three missed field goals and a missed extra point. Not to mention there were costly penalties – which include a running into the kicker call that prolonged a drive and a holding infraction that negated a made field goal.
"Obviously, that's not what we are striving for. We've got some things we worked on this week and hope to have a better showing than we did," said Doll. "We are always looking to improve things. We have eight goals that we set out for each week and last week was not a very good showing."
It's not all bad, though.
In fact, ECU ranks second in the country in kickoff returns and senior punter Trent Tignor has lived up to expectations after being named onto the Ray Guy Award Watch List in the off-season.