ECU, Tulane with chance to gain traction in AAC play

East Carolina and Tulane had strong bounce-back performances a week ago. Up next, the Pirates will visit the Green Wave to continue their American Athletic Conference schedules on Saturday in New Orleans.

Two weeks ago, East Carolina (3-2, 1-1 AAC) lost its conference opener at home to Navy, 23-20 in double overtime. Then the Pirates went on the road and defeated South Florida 48-28 in a game moved from Tampa to Florida Atlantic’s stadium in Boca Raton, Fla., because of Hurricane Ian.

Holton Ahlers passed for 465 yards and six touchdowns, and C.J. Johnson caught seven of Ahlers’ passes for 197 yards and four touchdowns. Ahler’s grandmother passed away days before the game.

“I think it was important for him and his family that he did play and what an incredible performance,” East Carolina coach Mike Houston said. “I can’t say enough positive things about it. Just so happy for him. What a great way to honor someone that was a huge part of his life in just doing that for her on Saturday.”

Tulane (4-1, 1-0) lost at home to Southern Miss 27-24 two weeks ago before winning at Houston by the same score in overtime.

The Green Wave played without starting quarterback Michael Pratt, who has an unspecified injury to his throwing arm. Justin Ibieta started in Pratt’s place but was sidelined for good during the first series when he suffered a shoulder injury.

Redshirt freshman Kai Horton stepped in and threw three touchdown passes, including a game-winner after the Cougars had kicked a field goal on the first possession of overtime.

“We feel like Michael’s going to have the opportunity to play this week,” Tulane coach Willie Fritz said. “He looked alright (in practice). I haven’t had a chance to really talk to him, but we feel practice isn’t the same as a game.

“We are being careful what we are throwing at him right now. Hopefully he’s going to be fine Saturday.”

East Carolina ranks fourth in the American in scoring offense and scoring defense. The Pirates are averaging 35.2 points and allowing 20.6 per game; Tulane is averaging 32.4 and allowing 14.2, the latter ranking second in the conference.