A physical week of practice for ECU football culminates on Saturday in the program’s first road game of the 2020 season. Against a Georgia State team that went bowling in 2019, it will be the Pirates’ first trip to Atlanta to play football since the 1992 Peach Bowl victory and their only non-conference contest of the year.

“We’re looking forward to getting down there and competing,” head coach Mike Houston said. “You always got to be ready to go on the road and try to come back with a win. It’s going to be a great challenge, but our guys will be dialed in and ready to go.”

The Panthers put up north of 400 yards offensively against a then-ranked Louisiana team on Sept. 19, but fell 34-31 in overtime. ECU will enter the contest after being thoroughly dispatched by UCF at home in a game riddled with mistakes from both teams.

ECU fumbled the ball a total of four times last Saturday, losing three of them. The Pirates added a pick and 11 penalties in a game that got out of hand during the waning minutes of the first half.

When last Saturday’s game ended, it was unclear if the Pirates would make the trip to Atlanta after a portion of Georgia State’s football team was placed in quarantine following some positive COVID-19 test results. On Sunday, however, it was revealed those results were due to human error at the lab and all impacted student-athletes were, in fact, negative for the virus.

“Well we’ve gotten to play two weeks in a row, so after not knowing if we were going to play at all, we’re fortunate to get a second game,” Houston said. “We’re excited to go compete. Can’t wait to get down to Atlanta. I’m glad it’s a 12 o’clock kick-off, we don’t have to sit around all day. We’ll be ready to go about 12:03 whenever it’s time to go.”

It will be the Pirates’ second consecutive noon kick-off of the 2020 season. Just like last weekend, ECU wants to get off to an ideal start, which means scoring on their opening possession and keeping the Panthers from doing the same. Against UCF, ECU’s passing game was largely held in check as quarterback Holton Ahlers passed for little more than 200 yards and no Pirate receiver had more than three catches.

Rectifying what ails the Pirates’ offense will be an important part of leaving Atlanta with a victory. Expect ECU to continue its heavy dosage of running the football, but the Pirates will also likely take their fair share of shots down the field with Ahlers’ big arm. 

“We want to stick the ball in the end zone, I don’t care how it gets there,” Houston said. “We want to run the football and we want to throw the football, we want to be effective doing both. I expect to see us vastly improved offensively this week.”

A full preview of the game can be found here.

Kick-off between ECU and Georgia State from Center Parc Stadium is scheduled for noon. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

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