GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) - Freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers ran for two of East Carolina's four rushing touchdowns while Reid Herring threw for another score as the Pirates beat North Carolina 41-19 on Saturday.
Herring threw for 290 yards while directing a turnover-free performance for ECU (1-1), which was coming off a dispiriting home loss to Championship Subdivision opponent North Carolina A&T. That increased the pressure on third-year coach Scottie Montgomery to show progress after 19 losses in 25 games - enough so that Montgomery noted this week's game was "very critical for our coaching career."
His team responded in an emotional in-state matchup, while the Tar Heels (0-2) offered another display of bad penalties and offensive struggles.
Jordon Brown ran for UNC's only touchdown, while Freeman Jones kicked four field goals. But the Tar Heels converted 5 of 16 third downs and managed 35 yards of third-quarter offense as the Pirates stretched a 21-19 halftime lead.
UNC: The Tar Heels are 0-2 for the second straight season, and the problems are mounting for seventh-year coach Larry Fedora. They had ill-timed penalties, quarterback Nathan Elliott struggled to keep the offense moving consistently and the defense has yet to record a takeaway in two games. The Tar Heels were down nine players due to NCAA suspensions for secondary violations tied to players selling team-issued shoes, then lost tailback Antonio Williams (96 yards on six carries) in the second quarter when he was ejected for a helmet-to-helmet block that sent ECU cornerback Colby Gore to the hospital for evaluation.
ECU: Montgomery definitely needed this one, even if only to ease the already intense pressure a bit. Among the positive signs: The Herring-led offense converted 11 of 19 third downs while finding success on the ground (220 yards) and through the air. That also marks the program's seventh win in nine games against Atlantic Coast Conference teams.
UNC: The Tar Heels play their home opener against No. 19 UCF, which was unbeaten last year, next Saturday.
ECU: The Pirates play another ACC team, traveling to No. 12 Virginia Tech next Saturday.