East Carolina was thrilled to return to action last weekend. The Pirates will feel even better if they can collect a victory in their second game.

After being manhandled by UCF 51-28 in their opener, the Pirates (0-1) play at Georgia State (0-1) on Saturday in a non-conference game in Atlanta.

East Carolina's first scheduled game against Marshall on Sept. 12 was postponed due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite his team's lopsided loss last Saturday, Pirates coach Mike Houston is eager to make the team's first road trip.

"I can't wait until we play again," he said. "Really, it's rejuvenating to be so excited to go play again because I know we're going to improve."

They'll have to improve off a game in which they trailed 27-7 at halftime and 41-14 through three quarters.

Junior quarterback Holton Ahlers completed fewer than half of his passes but also threw for three touchdowns. He had 21 touchdown passes, compared to 10 interceptions, as the starter last season when East Carolina finished with a 4-8 mark.

Ahlers was picked off once in the opener and East Carolina also lost three fumbles.

Starting wide receivers C.J. Johnson, Tyler Snead and Blake Proehl were held in check as they each caught just two passes.

"I was disappointed in our production right there," Houston said. "If you're going to tell me we were going to have man coverage, I would say we're going to have a pretty good day."

The defense allowed UCF to rack up 632 total yards but Houston found a silver lining.

"I think we really made them work for what they got, that's the real key," he said. "We've got to correct our mistakes, continue to push to improve, disappointed we didn't force any turnovers. That's a big goal so that's something we have to continue working on."

The Panthers are coming off a frustrating and unnerving week in which their game at Charlotte was postponed on Friday due to positive COVID-19 tests. It turned out that the tests were faulty and they returned to the practice field on Monday.

"Out of an abundance of caution for the rest of our team and Charlotte, we could not in good conscience put our team on the bus and play a game," Georgia State athletic director Charlie Cobb said.

The four players who tested positive on Thursday were retested the next day. All of those tests came back negative.

"The disappointing news is that we could have played on Saturday," Cobb said. "More importantly, the positive news is we are not dealing with an outbreak at this time."

Georgia State lost its opener 34-31 to Louisiana in overtime the previous weekend.

Junior Destin Coates rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown and showed he can be the team's bell cow. He carried the ball 34 times after getting 82 attempts last season and scoring seven touchdowns.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Cornelious Brown passed for 196 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 64 yards on 15 carries and a score.

The Panthers are coming off a 7-6 campaign, including a 38-17 loss to Wyoming in the Arizona Bowl.

Georgia State is facing East Carolina for the first time. The return game at ECU is scheduled for 2027.

--Field Level Media

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