Aug. 30, 2012
GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina, which has made bowl appearances in five of the last six seasons, will open the new year under the direction of third-year head coach Ruffin McNeill at noon on Saturday when the Pirates battle against Appalachian State in a non-conference matchup at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The Mountaineers enter the contest ranked No. 5 and No. 6 in the preseason Football Championship Subdivision polls - AFCA (coaches) and The Sports Network (media), respectfully.
The contest against ASU marks just the second meeting against a FCS opponent for ECU since 2001 after edging the Mountaineers in the '09 season opener. The matchup will also represent the Pirates only action at home until Sept. 29 (UTEP) as East Carolina will embark on a three-game road swing starting next week against Southeastern Conference contender South Carolina in Columbia at 12:21 p.m.
East Carolina Records and Streaks
- Eleven bowl appearances since 1990; seven since 2000 (five of the last six years) ...
- Has won 31 of the last 36 games when scoring 30 or more points ...
- Has lost 11-straight games when scoring 20 or more less points ...
- Has won three of the last overall season openers ...
- Has won three straight season openers played at Dowdy Ficklen Stadium ...
- Has won 21-straight games against FCS members ...
- Has won 15 of the last 16 games when converting third downs at 50% or higher ...
- Has won 13 of the last15 games when recording three or more sacks ...
The Pirates Against The Mountaineers
The Mountaineers leads 19-11...The Pirates have enjoyed the upper hand lately, however, winning eight of the last 10, including a run of five straight beginning with a 35-7 victory in 1976 .. The two programs last met Sept. 5, 2009 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium where East Carolina posted a 29-24 victory ... The series history dates back to 1932 when ASU earned the first of 10 straight victories ... Appalachian State's last win in Greenville came during the 1959 season.
McNeill Against Appalachian State - As a Player
ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill squared off against Appalachian State all four years during his East Carolina playing career and was 4-0 against the Mountaineers ... The Saturday matchup with ASU as a coach represents the first time he has stood on a sideline opposite the Mountaineers as a member of a collegiate coaching staff.
Pirate and Mountaineer Connections
East Carolina: Head coach Ruffin McNeill spent a total of seven years (1989-91, 1993-96) on Jerry Moore's ASU staff, the last four as defensive coordinator; helping the Mountaineers to a record of 55-28 (.662), two Southern Conference Championships ('91, '94) and four playoff appearances ('89, '91, '94 and '95). Inside receiver coach and recruiting coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick served as ASU's QB/RB coach in 1985-88, DE coach in 1984 and graduate assistant coach in 1982-83; part of staffs that turned in a 34-12 record (.739) mark, captured a pair of SoCon titles and made a pair of playoff showings ('86, '87). Associate head coach and inside linebackers coach John Wiley played a key role in ASU's 174-71 (.710) record and three national championships in 19 total years on the Mountaineer staff (1989-90, 1993-2009 as defensive coordinator); also helped the program to seven SoCon titles and 13 overall NCAA I-AA playoffs appearances.
Appalachian State: Offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford served as the Pirates' graduate assistant coach in 2008 and 2009 and was part of Conference USA championships for Skip Holtz' program; the four-year Pirate letterman (1995-98) also spent seven years in the NFL.
East Carolina Against the Southern Conference
East Carolina has compiled an all-time record of 59-40-1 (.595) against current members of the Southern Conference ... In addition to the Pirates' 11-19 mark against Appalachian State, ECU is also 17-13 vs. Western Carolina, 12-4 vs. The Citadel, 11-3 vs. Furman, 3-0 vs. Georgia Southern, 3-1-1 vs. Wofford and 2-0 vs. Chattanooga.
Speaking of the SoCON...Pirate Memories
East Carolina was an active member of the Southern Conference from 1965-1976, compiling a 43-18-1 (.702) record with four league titles - 1966 (4-1-1 under Clarence Stasavich), 1972 (6-0 under Sonny Randle), 1973 (7-0 under Randle) ND 1976 (4-1 under Pat Dye).
Against the FCS
The Pirates currently own a 21-game win streak and have recorded an all-time record of 21-1 against programs that compete on the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly NCAA I-AA) level when the game was played ... The lone setback, which obviously occurred in the "first" game, came against Eastern Kentucky (28-16) on Nov. 15 1980 ... East Carolina has only faced two since 2000 - William & Mary ('01) and Appalachian State ('09).
At Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium
East Carolina's all-time record at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is 162-84-1 (.658) ... The Pirates opened the facility on Sept. 21, 1963 with a 20-10 win over Brian Piccolo and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in front of 17,000 fans ... Before a 3-3 mark in 2011 and a 4-2 clip in 2010, ECU won a combined 10 of 12 home matchups in 2009 (6-1) and 2008 (4-1) ... Overall, ECU has turned in 36 winning seasons at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Playing In Front of Pirate Nation
East Carolina has always been able to claim plenty of hometown support, even more so when playing at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturdays during the fall - establishing as C-USA's attendance leader on an annual basis ... In all, a total of 6,869, 342 fans have seen the Pirates in action since 1963, and in the last four years, ECU has averaged 46,403 (1,067,279/23 regular season games).
2012 Personnel Reset
Third-year head coach Ruffin McNeill and his staff completed an off-season that included the restocking of four offensive openings and four defensive slots, while performing an overhaul of the special teams units ... East Carolina returns over 70 percent of its lettermen and nearly 65 percent of its positional starters (7/offense, 7/defense) from a 5-7 squad in 2011 ... A total of 50 members of the Pirates' 2012 roster are upperclassmen (45.0 percent) - 19 seniors and 31 juniors.
Just A Few First-Time Starters
There could be as few as four first-time starters in East Carolina's lineup against Appalachian State Saturday - two on offensive side of the ball (C Taylor Hudson and QB Rio Johnson) and two on defense (CB Adonis Armstrong and SS Lamar Ivey/Chip Thompson) ... However, projected starting RT Robert Jones could make his first start on offense after opening five games as a DT in 2010.
Giving Everyone A Chance
A combined total of 49 players have made their initial career starts at some point during the Ruffin McNeill era - 24 in 2010 and 25 in 2011 ... In comparison, only eight made first starts during ECU's Conference USA championship campaign in 2009 ... In addition, the Pirates have not used the same starting lineup in successive games during that span as well.
The most visible position battle during the spring and fall camp was at quarterback as the Pirates tried to identify someone to fill the shoes of Dominique Davis, who set a pair of school career passing records in only two seasons after arriving as a transfer in 2010 ... Davis left ECU as the owner of 15 single-game or season standards in addition to career marks for completions (727) and touchdown passes (62) in just 25 contests ... Head coach Ruffin McNeill announced Monday, Aug. 27, that Rio Johnson had earned the opening day nod, edging out sophomore Shane Carden ... Johnson served as Davis' top backup in 2011 and completed 20-of-29 passes for 157 yards in four games.
East Carolina is one of only 12 programs on the FBS level who will be introducing a new quarterback (no previous starts) this season ... Others include Akron, Arizona State, Boise State, LSU, Memphis, Michigan State, Northern Illinois, Oklahoma State, Southern Miss, Stanford and Texas A&M.
Looking For New Sources of Offense
ECU returns only 45.7 percent of its scoring and less than 30 percent (28.8) of its total offense yardage it accumulated a year ago ... Needless to say, the departure of quarterback Dominique Davis also translated into a 94 percent loss of the unit's passing numbers.
Plenty of Production Back For "D"
On the other hand, the Pirates' defense will return roughly 70 percent of its production in four major defensive categories from last season - tackles (70.2), tackles for lost yardage (70.9), sacks (67.4) and turnover production (76.2 percent of combined interceptions and fumble recoveries).
Making Sure It Was Only An Aberration
East Carolina's inability to maintain possession of the football last year gave the Pirates the dubious distinction of a top national standing in the giveaway rankings (along with Iowa State) ... ECU turned it over a total of 35 (15 fumbles, 20 interceptions) occasions in 2011.
Returning the Favor
The Pirates have forced a turnover in 18 of its last 20 games ... In all, the Pirates have forced two or more turnovers in five of the last seven games and eight of the 12 contests last year ... ECU has won nine of 14 games (9-5) when it forces two or more turnovers in the Ruffin McNeill era, but are just 2-9 in contests when it doesn't.
Shutout-Free ... 180 and Counting
ECU will enter the Appalachian State contest with an active streak of 180 games of not suffering a shutout - a new school record ... The last time the Pirates were blanked was on Oct. 4, 1997 against Syracuse.
Analyzing The Schedule
East Carolina's 2012 schedule consists of games against one conference champion (Southern Miss/Conference USA), two division winners (Southern Miss/C-USA East and Houston/C-USA West), five bowl participants (South Carolina, Southern Miss, North Carolina, Houston, Marshall) and three programs ranked in the final top 25 polls - South Carolina (9 AP/USA Today), Southern Miss (20/AP, 19 USA Today) and Houston (18/AP, 14/USA Today).
Grove: FBS' Top Rookie Tackler in 2011
East Carolina sophomore inside linebacker Jeremy Grove ranked among the nation's top 10 tacklers as a rookie after netting 122 in 11 games ... Grove's 122 stops bested the previous ECU freshman record of 97 from Daren Hart in 1993 ... For his outstanding season he was named the Conference USA Freshman-of-the Year in 2011.