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Pirates to start D.H. Conley grad Saturday against UCF

East Carolina University true freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers (AP photo)
East Carolina University true freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers (AP photo)
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D.H. Conley High School grad and true freshman Holton Ahlers will make his first career college start for East Carolina at quaterback Saturday against nationally-ranked UCF.

Ahlers has played in the last five games for the Pirates (2-4) but he has come off the bench to provide an offensive spark. He scored two rushing touchdowns in the victory over North Carolina and has scored rushing touchdowns in the USF, Old Dominion and Houston contests.

Last Saturday, in a loss to Houston, Ahlers came off the bench and was 11-for-18 passing for 137 yards and a touchdown. He also had the rushing touchdown.

“It’s not necessarily about what we can’t do with [Holton] because we can do a lot with him," ECU football coach Scottie Montgomery said in Monday's press conference. "My biggest goal is to make sure the pressure doesn’t affect him. A lot of times you get all this emotion and energy built up when it’s your first opportunity to start. We can do some things early in the game plan with which he feels really comfortable.

"I will spend the majority of my time this week making sure he feels comfortable. I really started to move toward him playing more last week. One thing I did not want to do was bring him out in a situation under the lights without him having a couple of significant drives. The biggest thing will be how he deals with the pressure of starting.

"Knowing him, I think this is exactly what he is looking forward to. I like his personality during games and practice. I thought he was really focused Sunday night not knowing what we were going to do. I really like where he is right now."

Montgomery said Ahlers was obviously excited about starting.

"I let Holton know Sunday night," Montgomery said. "It was as simple as ‘let’s go.’ He was fired up and had a tremendous amount of energy. He took the first snap of Sunday night practice. I told him my thought pattern and he went to work. He understands what he needs to do in the next 72 hours to be successful.

"It’s a lot. If I had to pick someone at his age to do it, it would be him. It wouldn’t matter if I had my own business doing something else.”

Per ECU policy, freshmen are not allowed to comment to the press. That could change in Ahlers' case.

For the season, Ahlers is 13-for-28 for 144 yards passing and has 38 rushes for 248 yards and five touchdowns.

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