ECU started its season on the wrong end of back-to-back blowouts at the hands of UCF and Georgia State. Without spring practice and a cohesive fall camp, the Pirates struggled with a young defensive unit and new defensive coaching staff.

About a month into the season, however, the Pirates are beginning to round into form as a unit. A 20-point victory over USF got ECU into the win column, while back-to-back losses of a combined eight points have proven the purple and gold can hold its own with some of the better teams in the American Athletic Conference.

With Tulane next on the schedule, ECU is still looking to finally get over the hump and get consistently back in the win column. Under head coach Mike Houston, the Pirates have put in so much work to move the program into a position to win football games, now it is about competing on game day to validate that effort.

“It’s the same thing every week,” Houston said. “I think winning at this point, with the progress that we’ve made, certainly it continues to validate all the hard work that the players are putting in. It’s what you try to do every time you go out, you play the game to win. You compete to try to get a win each weekend, so it’ll be a great moment for us.”

A win against the Green Wave would give ECU its second AAC win of the season for the first time since 2017. It would also end a streak of six consecutive losses in home conference games for the Pirates dating back to November 2018.

If the Pirates want to end those distasteful trends, they will do it with one of the youngest rosters at the FBS level. Over 72% of ECU’s roster is underclassmen as 83 of the 115 total players are sophomores or younger. That number is the third-highest in the country with ECU sporting 59 freshmen, either redshirt or true rookies.

Despite their youth and perhaps because of it, Houston said this group is motivated in its quest to return winning football back to Greenville, North Carolina.

“They want to be the group that does that, they want to win,” Houston said on Thursday. “They’re very single-minded in their focus. They’re excited about their continued positive play, but they want to win. I thought we could see that vividly with the way they approached practice on Monday, which is the first big, physical practice coming out of the weekend. I anticipate having a very solid Friday and I anticipate them being ready to go at noon on Saturday. I would be very disappointed if we did not have a great effort Saturday.”

Over the last month, Houston has noticed an uptick in the physicality and effort level given by players at practice. In the culture he is building at ECU, players earn their playing time on the practice field. When the Pirates are at their best, they are translating practice habits to game day and that is what Pirate Nation is beginning to see from its football team.

In a position to beat Tulsa last Friday night, a pair of questionable officiating calls drastically impacted the Pirates’ chances to win the game. After going back and forth with the conference office immediately following the contest, ECU moved to put that game in the rearview mirror and prepare for a solid Tulane squad.

Making sure last week’s tough loss does not defeat them twice, the Pirates are back at home where they have dominated Tulane over the last handful of years. All-time, ECU is 8-1 against the Green Wave inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and will look to add to that stellar record on Saturday.

“Practice week is wrapped up. Excited about Saturday,” Houston said. “It’s going to be good to be back at home. Quality opponent coming in here and the more and more you look at them, just a very, very solid football team. Tremendous challenge for us, but the kids are really excited. Players and coaches are all really excited for the game. Looking forward to getting back out on the field.”

ECU and Tulane are scheduled to kick-off at noon on Saturday from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.

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