ECU’s slide continues with AAC loss to Temple

Pirates allow 500-plus yards again, fall to 1-5

Sep 30, 2017; Greenville, NC, USA; South Florida Bulls running back D'Ernest Johnston (2) runs for a touchdown past East Carolina Pirates linebacker Jordan Williams (7) during the first quarter at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

RALEIGH — East Carolina’s defenseless defense gave up better than 500 yards for the sixth time in as many games this season, but Saturday it was the offense that let it down most in a 34-10 loss to Temple before a season-low 31,326 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

After showing progress over their previous two games, the Pirates were only able to manage a single touchdown against their American Athletic Conference rival on a day in which they amassed more penalty yardage (96) than rushing yardage (34 on 22 carries).

In the meantime, a defense that came into the game ranked 128th out of 129 FBS teams nationally proved to be the cure Temple’s struggling offense needed by giving up 24 points in the second quarter to allow the game to get out of hand early.

The Owls came into the game averaging 16 points per game, having scored more than 20 points only once all season.

Quarterback Thomas Sirk and his offense, meanwhile, struggled — especially when it came to running the ball. The graduate transfer from Duke rushed for 87 yards on 18 carries a week earlier against South Florida, but recorded zero yards Saturday, thanks in part to four sacks. He was 20 of 38 passing for 253 yards.

ECU (1-5, 1-2 AAC) got on the scoreboard first when Jake Verity hit a 29-yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead.

The Pirates failed to take advantage of several other opportunities, including one provided by the defense on an interception by freshman linebacker Aaron Ramseur.

Verity missed a 50-yard attempt on that possession. Then after Temple tied the game with a field goal of its own, ECU wasted another scoring chance when Sirk was sacked on a third-down play that took them out of range for another three-point try.

Seizing the opening left by the Pirates, the Owls took command by scoring touchdowns on their next three possessions — one of which was aided by a Sirk interception — to take a 24-3 halftime lead.

ECU showed some signs of life early in the third quarter when Sirk hit Quay Johnson for an 11-yard touchdown to complete a 75-yard, 11-play drive that cut the lead to two touchdowns. But that was as close as the Pirates could get, thanks in large part to an inability to convert third down opportunities. They were just three of 14 while Temple went 14 of 20.

“The biggest thing you can look at is how we performed on third downs, inside of the game,” head coach Scottie Montgomery told “Outside of the game, the one thing I’m most disappointed about is our discipline. When I talk about the foundation of this program, it’s discipline and conditioning, and we didn’t have that today.”