ECU Cruises To 49-10 Win Over Campbell
Before handing over the reins to backup Mason Garcia and a host of other reserves, Ahlers put on a sensational performance that included three passing touchdowns, one rushing score and a few other records to his collection, including most total yards in school history. and passing yards in the AAC.
“Heck yeah it was,” Ahlers said of taking the rest of the night after Rahjai Harris scored on a 1-yard run with 11:11 to go, the fourth consecutive practice of the half and sixth in a row overall as ECU erased an early 10-7 deficit. “I think my body will like it a bit tomorrow too.
“It was cool to see (Mason) go there. He’s been great. Obviously a lot of us see him as the future of the program. He’s a super talented lad. He just needs some experience.”
Experience is what Ahlers brings now and what has been the centerpiece of Houston’s elevating program. The fourth-year coach recalls meeting Ahlers at his introductory press conference and maintaining his faith in the Greenville product through ups and downs.
“He was one of the first kids I met; he was sitting in the front row when I was introduced to the team,” Houston said. “He’s been the constant constant since I’ve been here. He’s a great leader in the dressing room, he’s a phenomenal role model in the community, he’s a role model for my two sons. It’s a pleasure to be with me every day. You can’t ask someone to be more than they have been.”
With at least nine more games to play, Ahlers already has a host of school and AAC milestones, which he increased on an enjoyable Saturday night in front of a crowd of 43,036. Ahlers separated the Camels by completing 17 of 20 passes for 263 yards as the Pirates (2-1) racked up over 500 total yards for the second straight week, finishing with 572.
His 12,332 total yards put him past Shane Carden for first place in school history, and he needs just 86 yards to supplant Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder (12,418) at the top of the list. AAFC. Ahlers also took the lead in AAC career passing yards with (11,019), passing Tulsa’s Dane Evans (10,782). He already holds AAC ratings for both attempts (1,934) and completions (879).
The three touchdowns against Campbell give the left-hander 22 for his career, just one behind Carden on the school roster.
Ahlers said the records are rewarding, especially as they help to help rebuild the program.
“It means a lot,” he said. “Being from Greenville, growing up here and obviously playing quarterback here has been a dream come true for me. The team we have this year is going to be really special. There’s going to be some broken records and stuff like that, but I’m just gonna focus on the basics, and it’s gonna keep winning every game and going 1-0 every week. As those records come in, it’ll be pretty cool to look back. But I’m I’m just super lucky to be in the situation I’m in. It has my name on it, but there’s a million people who worked hard to get my name on it.
Houston said Ahlers deserved recognition, not just for his performance on the court, but also for his leadership.
“I’m very, very proud of him,” Houston said. “He had a phenomenal night tonight.
“I’ve coached a lot of guys over the years, and he’s one of the nicest players I’ve ever had,” Houston added. “I respect him so much for the way he plays. He’s a badass kid. He’s a great player, and he’s just a phenomenal human being. I’m blessed that God allowed me to spend a few years with him, and I’m going to enjoy every day with him until he’s done.”
Houston also likes to have speedster Keaton Mitchell among its offensive weapons. The second runner from McDonough, Georgia, torched the Camels for 185 yards on 13 carries, winning his eighth career 100-yard game. Mitchell scored on an 18-yard sprint after Campbell took an early 3-0 lead, then gained 70 yards on five carries, including a 42-yard dash, to set up a 1-yard pass from Ahlers to ryan jones for a 14-10 lead.
The Pirates had 42 consecutive points after the Camels scored on their first two possessions. Campbell, led by elusive quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams, had 403 yards but failed to score on his last nine possessions. Luck Bates ended a threat with an interception. Another threat ended in a missed field goal.
Williams completed 23 of 38 passes for 300 yards, including a 61-yard pass to Jalen Kelsey on a short drive.
“I wish we hadn’t missed that hitch road tackle that gave them the long touchdown, but I think we responded and played well in the second half,” Houston said. “It was good to see.”
ECU’s attack also responded by scoring on their last two possessions of the first half and the first four of the second. Two of those scores came on fade patterns in the front right corner of the end zone, a 23-yard to CJ Johnson and a 28-yarder to Jalen Johnson on a fourth down.
“I thought Jalen had a great game and Holton knew exactly where he was,” Houston said. “It was really good to see us winning those one-on-one matches on the pitch because we’re going to have to do that all year round this year.”
That includes next week in the AAC’s fourth straight home game and home opener against Navy.
“We have a great Navy baseball club coming here next week,” Houston said. “They’ve had two weeks to prepare for us. We’re going to have to play our best ball of the year to have a chance.”