Four Downs: SMU

ECU took a 49-23 victory over SMU on its way to garnering its first conference win of the season. The road victory marked an all-around sound performance for the Pirates. Here are my four downs from the contest.

SUMMERS PRODUCES STELLAR ENCORE

Amidst all of the hype surrounding him, it seemed like topping his performance against Virginia Tech last week was perhaps a task too tall for James Summers. However, the quarterback picked up right where he left off and torched the SMU defense to the tune of 238 yards of total offense and four touchdowns — and that was in just three quarters of work.

He wasted no time finding the end zone for his first score on a 27-yard scamper, dodging defenders and his own linemen along the way. The Mustangs have notoriously struggled with dual threat quarterbacks this season so it was no shock to see Summers see significant time despite Blake Kemp getting the initial nod.

Kemp’s days seem numbered, however, and back-to-back performances in which he sparked the offense and provided highlight reel material have put Summers fervor at an all-time high. The score, afterall, was 23-7 in favor of the Mustangs and Kemp threw to ill-advised throws that ended up in SMU hands when Summers entered the contest.

Sprinkle in a 9-of-10, 153 yard and two touchdown game, including a nice floating pass to Trevon Brown for a 47-yard score, and Summers has the makings of a starting quarterback against next week’s opponent, BYU.

BOWDEN ANNOUNCES HIMSELF

Freshman Yiannis Bowden is just one piece in the deep, experienced East Carolina linebacker core. Seniors Zeek Bigger and Montese Overton truly overshadow the bunch with their play on the field but the youngster Bowden stood out among the rest against SMU.

The Pirates, as a team, held the dangerous Mustang offense and its dual-threat quarterback to just 40 yards on the ground. The freshman linebacker was a big part of that.

Bowden’s four tackles didn’t led the team (Bigger held the lead with 6) but his three sacks for 29 yards surely gave Pirate fans a glimpse of what the freshman can do moving forward. With Overton wreaking havoc of his own, sacking SMU quarterback Matt Davis five times, Bowden had the perfect time to shine and helped provide significant push up front thanks to his rushing ability off the edge.

At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Bowden’s size alone makes him hard to miss. But throw in his speed and ability to shed blocks, all of which culminated in his impressive performance against the Mustangs, and Bowden has the makings of a prototypical well-rounded Pirate linebacker.

PIRATES STILL HAMPERED BY POOR START

Through four games this season, a familiar theme has popped up early and often. Outside of the game against Florida, ECU has gotten off to less than impressive starts in every game so far.

That very theme reared its ugly head yet again against SMU and the Mustangs jumped out to a quick 23-7 lead thanks to two timely interceptions and opportunistic scores, highlighted by a trick-play touchdown pass.

It wasn’t until Summers entered the game in the second quarter that the Pirates went on a 42-0 run and dominated SMU. But for the first 20 minutes, it had the makings of a home victory for the hosting Mustangs, and a signature conference win for first-year head coach Chad Morris, who surely has the program trending in the right direction.

The Pirates have been fortunate enough to overcome their poor starts to games but things will only get harder and harder moving deeper into conference play and getting off to better starts will surely be emphasized by head coach Ruffin McNeill going into the BYU contest.

SECONDARY NOTCHES SHUTDOWN PERFORMANCE

ECU’s oft-beleaguered secondary finally had the shutdown performance that many expected from the group this season.

Senior cornerback Josh Hawkins managed to stay unnoticed, something that should be encouraged, while freshman corner Corey Seargent served as the team’s best secondary player.

The ECU defense held the Mustangs to just 289 passing yards but the stat was inflated due SMU’s heavy passing in the second half after going down big. Still, though, the Pirates held Davis in check and made leading receiver Courtland Sutton a virtual non-factor (four catches 51 yards). In fact, SMU’s most impressive passing play came from running back Xavier Castille to fellow back Xavier Jones on a trick-play, running back pass.

Outside of that, though, the secondary notched a strong performance and held all SMU receivers under 100 individual receiving yards — no small task considering the Mustangs offensive prowess.


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