GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — East Carolina’s football team went into Saturday with a day of celebration for their seniors. Or at least, it was supposed to be.

Instead, the Houston Cougars dominated the Pirates with a 42-3 win, the largest deficit in head coach Mike Houston’s time at ECU. The Pirates were a six-point favorite entering the game.

Fifth-year senior quarterback Holton Ahlers completed 15 of 30 passes, had two carries for -11 yards and did not throw a single touchdown in his last game at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Despite this loss, these seniors as well as Coach Houston have turned the program around. Ahlers has broken multiple ECU records and multiple AAC records. Many other seniors had phenomenal careers at East Carolina as well.

In the 2021 AAC football predictions, the Pirates were picked to finish eighth. This year, they were predicted to finish fifth. They have also been bowl eligible two years in a row.

Despite this, there were some contributing factors to the loss Saturday.

Clayton Tune

Houston’s quarterback Clayton Tune, the American Athletic Conference passing leader, completed 32 of 44 passes for 435 yards and four touchdowns as the Cougars scored the first 28 points of the game. He threw two to Matthew Golden, who finished with eight receptions for 127 yards, both covering 26 yards, in the third quarter alone.

No penalties or turnovers

East Carolina did not commit a penalty or a turnover for the first time since the 2012 New Orleans Bowl. With this in mind, it’s still hard to believe they lost by 39. Houston had one turnover, an interception by Juan Powell.

Keaton Mitchell

Mitchell has had many standout moments this season and is a name very well-known in college football and the Greenville community. He had 14 carries for 128 yards, his longest being 37. He passed1,000 yards rushing for the second year in a row in Saturday’s loss.

Wrapping up the regular season

East Carolina will head to Temple for its last regular season game on Saturday with a 1 p.m. kickoff. After that, the Pirates will find out later what bowl game they will play in and who they will face.