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College Football: East Carolina must regroup

Associated PressGREENVILLEó East Carolina has gone from talk of the country to an afterthought in the first month of the season. It had coach Skip Holtz taking a close look at his team from top to bottom during its bye week.
“We’ve been feast and we’ve been famine,” Holtz said Monday during his weekly news conference. “I don’t think we’re playing as well after the fifth game as we did after the first game. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why.”
The Pirates (3-2) started the year with wins against ranked opponents Virginia Tech and West Virginia, then followed up with a late comeback to win at Tulane. But from there, East Carolina has faltered with a 30-24 overtime loss to in-state rival North Carolina State and a 41-24 drubbing at home to Houston. During that stretch, injuries hit key positions ó most notably at linebacker with the loss of Quentin Cotton for the season ó and the team looked exhausted after an emotionally demanding start to the year.
The off week came at the right time. Now the Pirates are hoping they’ve regrouped enough to win at Virginia this weekend.
“It was very needed,” Holtz said. “It was a very emotional September with all the highs and lows we’ve been through. The players and coaches, we all needed to get away and get their feet back under them. It has given us a time to evaluate where we are as a team after five games.”
Holtz said his biggest concern is finding consistency, especially on third down. But while keeping drives going has become increasingly difficult for the Pirates, so too has stopping their opponents. East Carolina converted more than 50 percent (15 of 29) of their third downs in the first two games, while holding them to 33 percent (8 of 24).
In the past three games, the Pirates have seen their conversion rate slip to 23 percent while their opponents have improved to 38 percent.
“That’s an area we need to take a good hard look at,” Holtz said. “We’re not good on either side of the ball right now. We’re 3-2 and we can’t change that now. We are where we are, but I think we can grow from it and certainly learn from it.”

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