East Carolina’s players thrive on chances to show ACC schools they were overlooked, but the Pirates were beaten last week by another team motivated by the desire to prove themselves.
North Carolina A&T, a Football Championship Subdivision member, last week upset ECU, a Football Bowl Subdivision school. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Blake Proehl, who made his college debut with nine catches for 65 yards and a touchdown, was as subdued as any of the Pirates following the 28-23 defeat.
“We lost to a team we should have beaten,” he said. “I think we beat ourselves; all the players know that. Our team is better this year. I know nobody knows that yet.”
But for Proehl, add in personal feelings to the normal ACC challenge when ECU (0-1) plays UNC (0-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Blake’s brother Austin Proehl was a UNC receiver from 2013 to 2017, catching 91 passes for 1,265 yards and five touchdowns. The Buffalo Bills drafted him in the seventh round, although he was released last weekend. Their father, Ricky Proehl, played 17 years in the NFL following his Wake Forest career.
“Chapel Hill is a school that didn’t offer me,” Blake said. “They didn’t believe in my skills. I’m going to go out and try to show them they messed up. But it’s not about me, it’s about my team. We’re going out there to beat them. Going against my brother’s team is what it is. It’s going to be a great competition.”
Prohel’s only other offers were from Appalachian State and UNC-Charlotte. But Proehl impressed ECU’s coaches at their 2016 summer camp. Then, as a senior at Charlotte Providence, he caught 52 balls for 1,016 yards and 12 touchdowns.
His college career was delayed a season following a non-contact knee injury at the start of ECU’s 2017 fall camp, but he has since gained 15 pounds and is now 6-foot-1, 180-pounds.
Proehl began quickly against A&T, grabbing his first reception on the second play of the game for 9 yards and a first down. His TD was a 7-yarder on a slant for a 10-7 lead.
But a missed touchdown toss into the end zone corner bothered him, too. The tipped ball fell incomplete when he didn’t’ grab it from the defensive back. ECU settled for Jake Verity’s 22-yard field goal for and 23-21 lead with 10:02 to play.
“I should have come back to it and jumped to get it,” Proehl said. “I knew he was about to tip it, but I was hoping he wouldn’t. So it threw me off by hitting his finger a little bit.”
OPENING NIGHT NOTES
-- ECU’s coaches and athletes didn’t make excuses about the weather postponement or offer other reasons for last week’s loss., Montgomery said, “It comes back to me and everything we did not get done.”
-- ECU quarterback Reid Herring, experiencing a cauldron as a first-time starter, sat before a circle of reporters and cameras and accepted blame with polite answers he repeated in an even tone.
“I didn’t play good enough to win,” said the redshirt sophomore from Millbrook High. “I’ve got to make more plays to win.”
-- ECU has pinned improved defense on a pass rush, but Jalen Price recorded the only sack late in the game. A&T rolled its quarterback away from defensive end Kendall Futrell (one tackle, two QB hurries). ECU, last in the nation a year ago in both total yards (541.7) and points (45.1) allowed, held the Aggies to 267 yards.
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