ECU Hosts Old Dominion In 2013 Season Opener

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UABSPORTS.COM

Aug 29, 2013

East Carolina Game 1: Old Dominion
Date Saturday, Aug. 31
Time 7:05 PM (EST)
Location Greenville, N.C. (Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium)
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GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina, which has made bowl appearances in six of the last seven seasons, will open the new campaign under the direction of fourth-year head coach Ruffin McNeill when the Pirates battle Old Dominion in a non-conference matchup at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

The contest against the Monarchs will mark the fourth time in the last five years that ECU will open a season at home. The matchup will also represent the first contest of a three-game homestand for the Pirates, who will follow by meeting FAU (Sept. 5) and Virginia Tech (Sept. 14).

East Carolina Records and Streaks

  • Eight bowl appearances since 2000 (six of the last seven years) ...
  • Has won nine of the last 10 games (and 37 of 43) when scoring 30 or more points ...
  • Has lost 11-straight games when scoring 20 or less points ...
  • Has won 20 of the last 21 games when converting third downs at 50% or higher ...
  • Has won 11-straight games when gaining 200 or more rushing yards ...
  • Has lost 14 of the last 15 games when surrendering 200 or more rushing yards ...
  • Has won six of the last seven games when forcing two or more turnovers ...
  • Has won four of the last five season openers ...
  • Has won seven of the last eight home openers ...

The Series
Saturday's contest will mark the first meeting (0-0) between East Carolina and Old Dominion in the sport of football ... In fact, ECU will play four "inaugural" games during the course of the 2013 campaign - Florida Atlantic/Sept. 5, Middle Tennessee/Oct. 5 and FIU/Nov. 2 are others.

East Carolina Against The Commonwealth (of Virginia)
The Pirates have won 32 of 61 all-time matchups (32-28-1) against current FBS and FCS programs from Virginia ... ECU is 13-11 against Richmond, 12-4-1 vs. William & Mary, 5-12 vs. Virginia Tech and 2-1 vs. Virginia.

Non-League Statistical Comparisons
In its four non-conference contests last year, ECU averaged 19.8 points, 117.8 rushing yards, 223.2 passing yards and 341.0 total yards per game ... By comparison, the Pirates booked 37.0 ppg, 143.2 rypg, 297.5 pypg and 440.8 ypg averages in their eight C-USA tilts in 2012.

Analyzing the 2013 Schedule
East Carolina's 2013 schedule consists of games against two conference champions (Old Dominion/Colonial, Tulsa/Conference USA), two divisional winners (North Carolina/ACC co- Coastal, Tulsa/C-USA West), three bowl participants (Virginia Tech, Tulsa, NC State) and one program ranked in the final top 25 poll - Tulsa (No. 25/USA Today).

What's Back ... Productively Speaking
Offensively, the Pirates return 64 percent of their rushing yards (1,122 of 1,760) and 88 percent of their passing yards (3,116 of 3,551), while on defense, East Carolina welcomes back 78 percent of its tackles (766 of 977) and 81.8 percent of its turnover production (18 of 22; 9/10 interceptions and 9/12 fumble recoveries) ... From a scoring standpoint, players who accounted for 325 of ECU's 409 points a year ago are on the 2013 roster (79 percent).

Looking For New First-Time Starters
There could be as many as four first-time starters in East Carolina's lineup against Old Dominion Saturday - three on the offensive side of the ball (OR Davon Grayson, LT Ike Harris and RB Cory Hunter) and one on defense (DE Johnathon White) ... In addition, SS Michael Dobson could potentially make his first start on defense after opening a combined six games as a running back during the 2011 (3 games) and 2012 (3) seasons.

Ridding of the Redshirt?
With true freshmen receivers Davon Grayson (OR) and Isaiah Jones (IR) earning a place on the Pirates' first depth chart of the season, they could increase head coach Ruffin McNeill's "play immediately" count to nine since his arrival at ECU in 2010 ... A year ago, OR Jabril Soloman experienced action, while IR Danny Webster and ILB Brandon Williams played during their rookie campaigns in 2011 (and a total of four players were used in 2010).

Ruffin McNeill's Offensive M.O.
Although the unit featured only three senior starters, East Carolina's offense passed for 3,551 yards in 2012 - the second-highest total in program history ... Coach McNeill's first squad set the standard in 2010 with 4,143 air yards before his second edition followed with 3,433 yards in 2011, thus giving him the top three single-season passing seasons in the Pirate record books.

Redzone Rewards
ECU will open the 2013 campaign with an active streak of 36-straight redzone scores (31 TDs, 5 FGs) after converting its last three against Memphis on Oct. 13 and following with a 33-of-33 ledger vs. UAB (6-6), Navy (4-4), Houston (7-7), Tulane (4-4), Marshall (7-7) and UL-Lafayette (5-5) in the New Orleans Bowl ... The Pirates were 50-of-54 overall (92.6%) in 2012, ranking 3rd among all FBS programs.

Welcome Back Rick
Rick Smith was appointed East Carolina's defensive coordinator on Jan. 18 after three-years as assistant head coach and secondary coach at South Florida ... Smith, who possesses 32 years of collegiate coaching experience and has directed defenses at the FBS level for six seasons, returns to a Pirate program where he served as defensive back coach from 2005 to 2009 - an era which produced two Conference USA championships, back-to-back league scoring defense statistical titles and a run of four-straight bowl appearances.

Speaking of ... Rewind The Clock
The last game Rick Smith coached at Dowdy-Ficklen was on Dec. 5, 2009 - the day the Pirates defeated Houston 38-32 in the Conference USA Championship Game ... Smith's secondary picked off three Case Keenum passes during the afternoon, one of which was safety Van Eskridge's game-saver in the ECU endzone with only 42 seconds remaining in the contest.

Shane Carden - Looking For an Encore
Although initially coming up short to Rio Johnson after a heated nine-month (spring, preseason camp) battle for the starting quarterback position in 2012, junior Shane Carden took over the job prior to ECU's third game and responded with 3,116 aerial yards - the Pirates' third-highest single-season passing total in school history:

  • Has accounted for 31 of ECU's 45 offensive TDs as the Pirates' top quarterback (1-1/SC, 2-2/USM, 3-4/UTEP, 2-2/UCF, 5-5/MEM, 2-5/UAB, 1-4/NAVY, 4-5/UH, 3-4/TLN, 6-9/MAR, 2-4/ULL) and led drives that produced all 15 FGs last year ...
  • Has converted 47-of-50 redzone opportunities while under center ...
  • Led all ECU ball-carriers with eight ground TDs in 2012 ...
  • Established an ECU single-game record with 439 passing yards vs. Marshall on Nov. 23 and logged the program's third-highest completion percentage (80.9) with career-bests in completions (38) and attempts (47) ... Was 19-of-22 for 261 yards in first-half action vs. the Herd (9-of-9, 163 yards in first quarter) ...
  • Threw for 386 yards vs. UAB and matched a school single-game record with five TD strikes against Memphis in successive weeks ...
  • Directed an offensive unit that racked up 600 yards against the Blazers - the eighth-best single-game performance in program history ...
  • Posted career-bests in rushing yards (63) vs. UTEP and ground TDs (3) vs. Marshall ...
  • Connected with Justin Hardy on a career-long 76-yarder (TD) at UCF, which ranked as ECU's longest play from scrimmage in 2012 ...
  • Made first collegiate start at Southern Miss and rallied Pirates to a C-USA win with a strong second-half performance (7-of-10, 93 passing yards, TD) ...
  • Came off the bench to open the second half and directed East Carolina's only two scoring drives against then-No. 9 South Carolina (FG, TD) ...
  • After suffering an interception on first collegiate pass vs. Gamecocks, bounced back to hit 12 of-17 throws, including first career completion - a 14-yarder ...

Tay Cooper - 1K Repeat Hopes
For the first time since 2004, East Carolina will return a 1,000-yard rusher when senior Vintavious Cooper lines up for the opener against Old Dominion on Saturday (Marvin Townes ran for 1,128 yards as a junior in 2003 before following with only 235 during an injury-plagued '04 campaign) ... Cooper was the Pirates' top ground gainer in 11 of the last 12 contests as a junior and became the 12th ECU RB in history to produce a 1,000-yard rushing season when he totaled 1,049 a year ago - a first for a Pirate since 2009.

Damon Magazu - Among Pick Leaders
Junior free safety Damon Magazu's six career interceptions are the sixth-highest total among all returning FBS defenders ... Oddly, all six of Magazu's picks have come at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (one in 2012/Marshall).