Sept. 2, 2010
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GREENVILLE, N.C. - Two-time defending Conference USA champion East Carolina, which has posted four consecutive winning seasons for the first time since the 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979 campaigns, will open the new year and the Ruffin McNeill era when the Pirates battle Tulsa in a league matchup at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium beginning at 2:00 p.m. Sunday.
ECU will start the season with C-USA action for only the second time overall and first since 2003 after joining the Irving, Texas-based conference in 1997. The Pirates will look to extend their league home winning streak to eight straight and run their inter-division record to 11-5 (since 2005).
East Carolina Records And Streaks
Eleven winning or .500 seasons in the last 16 years (four straight)
Ten bowl appearances since 1990; six since 2000 (four straight)
Has won four of the last five, six of eight and eight of its last 11 games
Has won 11 of the last 12 (and 14 of 16) games against C-USA members
Has won seven of the last nine games against C-USA West Division members
Has won four of the last five home games against C-USA West Division members
Has won five of the last seven (8-11 overall) first-year head coach season openers
Has won 18 of the last 21 games when holding its opponent to 24 points or less
Has forced at least one turnover in 30-straight games
Ruff At The 'Fick
McNeill enjoyed a stellar four-year playing career with the Pirates and later came back for a one-season coaching stint in 1992 ... He enjoyed success playing and coaching at what was then called Ficklen Stadium, rolling up a combined 21-3 record (18- 1 mark as a player, which included a 10-game win streak to close his career) ... His farewells at the `Fick (in both roles) were enjoyable:
1979 - ECU 49, North Texas 16 (Nov. 11)
Clock Rewind: radiation leak occurs at Three Mile Island, Muhammad Ali retires from boxing, ESPN makes its debut, Pac-Man game is first released
1992 - ECU 35, Arkansas State 18 (Nov. 14)
Clock Rewind: Microsoft ships Windows 3.1, last episode of the Cosby Show airs, Johnny Carson says goodbye, Hurricane Andrew strikes South Florida.
New Systems & Small Inheritances
McNeill has implemented Texas Tech's "Air Raid" offensive system at East Carolina, a spread scheme look that relies on quarterback play ... One of McNeill and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley's biggest goals during the spring and fall camp was to identify a new signalcaller after the departure of six-year player Patrick Pinkney ... From an experience standpoint, ECU's cupboard is bare as the five current quarterbacks on the roster have never received a snap in fall competition at East Carolina ... Sophomore walk-on Brad Wornick and junior transfer Dominique Davis emerged as the top two choices after camp and are joined by redshirt freshman Rio Johnson, true freshmen Shane Carden and Zackary Illing (walk-on) ... The only player with collegiate experience as a Pirate was sophomore Josh Jordan (3 career games, 5-of-7 passing, 61 yards), but he was moved to the receiver position during the summer months.
Pirate Coaching Debuts
First-year East Carolina head football coaches have compiled an all-time record of 8-11 when making their Pirate debut in season openers ... While five of the past seven "new hires" opened their ECU career 1-0, among the past three, Skip Holtz was the lone winner with his victory over Duke in 2005.
East Carolina's 34 lost lettermen (off the 2009 roster) ranks as the highest number among all FBS programs ... In addition, the Pirates' six returning starters are the fewest among all Conference USA teams.
Offense's First Line Of Defense
One of the areas where East Carolina can boast of experience this season is the offensive line as it returns three of five starters in tackle Willie Smith and guards Cory Dowless and D.J. Scott ... The trio has combined to make 82 starts, which includes a run of 56-straight openings (Smith 14 starts/ 14 consecutive, Dowless 36/28 and Scott 32/14) ... The three played a key role in the Pirates' No. 6 national rank for fewest sacks allowed (12/0.86 spg) last season (ECU was "sack-free" in seven of the last 10 games).