ECU Ahlers launches Birmingham Bowl record five TD assists

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Holton Ahlers threw a record five Birmingham Bowl touchdown passes and accounted for a record six touchdowns to help East Carolina beat Coastal Carolina 53-29 in the TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl at Protective Stadium.

Ahlers, selected the game’s MVP, threw for 300 yards on 26 of 38 passes, rushed for 37 yards and a touchdown and caught a 14-yard pass for the Pirates (8-5).

“I was locked in,” Ahlers said. “Anytime you have a month to prepare for a game, you better get locked in and play well. We had a good plan to get some quick throws early and get the receivers started. They did a really good work.

Carolina Coast Quarterback Grayson McCallthe three-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, who entered the transfer portal this month, was not so lucky.

Presumably, McCall’s last play in a Coastal Carolina uniform came on a 9-yard touchdown run. He was hit when he fell in the end zone and never returned. Jarrett Guest came on as a first-half substitute and played most of the second half. McCall’s run gave Coastal Carolina (9-4) a 14-10 lead. At halftime, however, the Chanticleers were down 24-14.

Coastal Carolina was lucky to drop just 10 points at halftime. East Carolina had six drives in the first half of which four ended in the scores. One ended with a fourth save by Coastal Carolina and the other ended with the Pirates exhausting the last 35 seconds of the half.

Ahlers was accurate on throws from all depths, connecting on 17 of 22 passes for 213 yards with touchdown passes 27 and 11 yards for Isaiah Winstead. ECU in reverse Keaton Mitchell was also effective, carrying the ball 10 times for 107 yards with a 1-yard touchdown run.

“What a great evening for Pirate Nation”, coach mike houston. “So excited for our players, excited for our fans, excited for our institution. That’s been the goal since we got here, to get ECU back to winning ways and getting back into the fight for the bowl and getting back to winning bowl games.

McCall, who missed three games with a season-ending injury, played well before the injury. He was 11 of 14 for 75 yards and carried the ball four times for 12 yards. His 25-yard pass to Ivy Turon set up a 1-yard run per Reese White.

‘I don’t know the injury,’ Coastal Carolina interim coach Chad Staggs said. “He walks around the locker room and we had a big hug just before I got here. I don’t think it was a concussion, but I don’t know.

What he does know is that it had an impact.

“I think when you have number 10 on the ball game, we’re a little better,” Staggs said.

East Carolina quickly extended their lead to 31-14 in the third quarter. Coastal Carolina’s Braydon Bennett fumbled on the first play of the second half and East Carolina’s Jireh Wilson recovered at Coastal Carolina 27. Six plays later, Ahlers found Jaylen Johnson for a touchdown pass 2 yards. Ahlers had a 14-yard reception on the disc off a pass from CJ Johnson.

Coastal Carolina responded quickly, moving 79 yards on three plays with White gaining 32 yards on the first two plays and Guess hitting Tyler Roberts in stride on a 47-yard touchdown pass.

East Carolina scored the next 14 points on a 1-yard run from Ahlers and a 15-yard pass from Ahlers to CJ Johnson. Ahlers capped off his night with a one-yard touchdown pass Shane Calhoun and a two-point conversion pass to Mitchell.


Coastal Carolina: The start was a problem for the Chanticleers during the season-ending three-game losing streak. Coastal Carolina was outscored, 75-28. East Carolina had 330 yards in the first half.

East Carolina: The Pirates are back in the bowl win column for the first time since 2013. ECU last played in a bowl in 2014. The Pirates were scheduled to play in the Military Bowl l last year, but the game was canceled one day before kick-off.

ECU Ahlers launches Birmingham Bowl record five TD assists originally appeared on

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