Pirates Travel To No. 9 South Carolina

UABSPORTS.COM Junior running back Hunter Furr
Junior running back Hunter Furr

East Carolina Game 2: South Carolina
Date Saturday, September 8
Time 12:21 p.m. (ET)
Location Columbia, S.C. (Williams-Brice Stadium)
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 East Carolina will face the first of two automatic-qualifying Bowl Championship Series (BCS) members on its 2012 schedule when the Pirates travel to Columbia on Saturday, Sept, 8, to meet South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium for a non-conference matchup at 12:21 p.m. The battle against the Gamecocks will also open a three-game road swing for ECU, who will begin Conference USA play next week when it visits Southern Miss before facing off against North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Sept. 22. The Pirates will try to move to 2-0 for the second time in the three-year tenure of head coach Ruffin McNeill and for only the third time since 1999 - ironically, the same campaign which ECU last visited the Columbia and the Palmetto State (a 21-3 victory).

East Carolina Records and Streaks

  • Eleven bowl appearances since 1990; seven since 2000 (five of the last six years) ...
  • Has won 32 of the last 37 games when scoring 30 or more points ...
  • Has lost 11-straight games when scoring 20 or more less points ...
  • Has lost three-straight games against nationally-ranked opponents ...
  • Has dropped seven of the last eight non-conference road games ...
  • Has won 16 of the last 17 games when converting third downs at 50% or higher ...
  • Has won 13 of the last 16 games when recording three or more sacks ...

The Last Meeting
East Carolina37
South Carolina56
September 3, 2011
Charlotte, N.C.
Pirates Fall To No. 12 Gamecocks, 56-37
South Carolina's Stephen Garcia came off the bench to run for two touchdowns and throw for another as he rallied the 12th-ranked Gamecocks past East Carolina 56-37 on Saturday night.

The Pirates Against The Gamecocks
South Carolina leads 11-5 ... The Pirates have won three of the last five and five of the last eight matchups beginning with a 31-20 triumph in 1991 ... Before the Gamecocks' 56-37 win a year ago in Charlotte, the two programs last met at Williams-Brice Stadium on Sept. 18, 1999 where ECU posted a 21-3 victory, but the Pirates' stay in Columbia lasted an additional week because of the flooding associated with Hurricane Floyd in the Greenville area ... The Pirates were extended workout privileges on the South Carolina campus in preparation for its next game against Miami (Fla.) ... The Gamecocks have won eight of 12 contests at Williams-Brice Stadium.

McNeill Against South Carolina - As a Player
Ruffin McNeill squared off against South Carolina only once during his playing career at East Carolina ... As a safety under Pat Dye, McNeill suffered a low-scoring 19-16 setback as a sophomore in Columbia in 1977 ... McNeill had a solo tackle in the contest that saw ECU surrender 13 fourth-quarter points that erased a 16-6 lead.

McNeill Against South Carolina - As a Coach
Ruffin McNeill has faced South Carolina as a coach four (2-1-1) times prior to Saturday's game, two occurring during McNeill's tenure as a graduate assistant at Clemson (1985 & 1986). He faced the Gamecocks once when he was a defensive line coach at ECU (1992) and of course last year's matchup (2011).

Steve Spurrier Against the Pirates
While Saturday's meeting will be Steve Spurrier's second against East Carolina as a head coach, he did face the Pirates on one occasion as an assistant (0-1) ... During his first year on the Duke staff in 1980, ECU pinned a season-opening 35-10 loss on the Blue Devils in Durham (Sept. 6).

McNeill Against Spurrier
Despite a combined 50 years coaching at the collegiate level, East Carolina's Ruffin McNeill and South Carolina's Steve Spurrier have only faced each other once (2011) prior to Saturday.

East Carolina Against the Southeastern Conference
East Carolina has compiled an all-time record of 5-22 (.185) against current members of the Southeastern Conference ... In addition to the Pirates' 5-11 ledger against South Carolina, ECU is 0-3 vs. Auburn, 0-2 vs. Kentucky, 0-1 vs. Alabama, 0-1 vs. Florida, 0-1 vs. Georgia, 0-1 vs. LSU, 0-1 vs. Tennessee and 0-1 vs. Arkansas ... The Pirates have dropped five of their last seven games against SEC opponents - splitting four vs. South Carolina (W/1996, L/1997, W/1999, L/2011), while dropping a 23-22 decision at Alabama in 1998 and suffering 25-19 and 20-17 (OT) setbacks to Kentucky and Arkansas, respectively, in consecutive Liberty Bowl appearances (`08 and `09).

Palmetto State Pirates

A total of 12 South Carolina natives on East Carolina's 2012 roster could enjoy a reunion of sorts Saturday when East Carolina squares off against the Gamecocks ... The 12 South Carolina natives on ECU's roster are OL J.T. Boyd, OWR Antonio Cannon, OL Isaac Harris, DB Glenn Hilliard, OL Taylor Hudson, QB Ethan Long, CB Leonard Paulk, DE Lee Pegues, OWR Jabril Solomon, IWR Donte Sumpter, ILB Brandon Williams and OWR John Worthy.

The "Anytime, Anywhere" Scheduling Philosophy
The Pirates have faced off against 20 (4-16) opponents from automatic-qualifying BCS conferences in the last five years, 17 in regular season play alone ... East Carolina last win over a BCS conference school came at home against North Carolina State by a 33-27 score in overtime during the 2010 season ... The Pirates have not registered a true road win in those 20 games, but did defeat then No. 17 Virginia Tech in a neutral site matchup in Charlotte in 2008.

Overall On the Road - 2-4 in 2011
Since joining C-USA in 1997, East Carolina is 41-58 (.414) when playing away from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium ... After opening 2011 with a neutral site loss to South Carolina, ECU dropped three of its last five road contests (wins at Memphis and Navy, losses at Houston, UTEP and Marshall) ... Prior to a 2-5 mark in 2010 (losses at Virginia Tech, North Carolina, UCF and Rice, victories at USM and UAB, and a neutral site setback to Maryland in the Military Bowl), the Pirates were 3-4 in 2009 and 5-4 in 2008 ... ECU snapped a seven-game road losing skid against non-conference opponents (regular season) when it downed Navy 38-35 in Annapolis last Oct. 22.

Only A Half Dozen in 2012
After opening his first two seasons (2010 and 2011) with 10 first-time starters each, third-year head coach Ruffin McNeill "only" introduced six players who made their inaugural collegiate start when the Pirates faced off against Appalachian State Saturday - two on the offensive side of the ball (C Taylor Hudson and QB Rio Johnson) and four on defense (CB Adonis Armstrong, DE John Lattimore, DE Chrishon Rose and SS Chip Thompson).

Analyzing The Starters By Class
Included in the list of starters against Appalachian State were five sophomores (OLB Maurice Falls, ILB Jeremy Grove, IWR Justin Hardy, C Taylor Hudson, DE Chrishon Rose), 13 juniors (CB Adonis Armstrong, OG Jordan Davis, RB Michael Dobson, OT Adhem Elsawi, OLB Derrell Johnson, QB Rio Johnson, DE John Lattimore, FS Damon Magazu, FB/IWR Zico Pasut, OG Will Simmons, SS Chip Thompson, ILB Kyle Tudor, OWR Reese Wiggins) and four seniors (OWR Andrew Bodenheimer, NT Michael Brooks, CB Jacobi Jenkins, OT Robert Jones).

Bravo Rio
Head coach Ruffin McNeill and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley gave junior Rio Johnson the nod over sophomore Shane Carden to take over the Pirates' top quarterback job prior to the Appalachian State game ... Johnson served as Dominique Davis' top backup in 2011 and completed 20-of-29 passes for 157 yards in four career games before getting the start against the Mountaineers ... In his debut, he accounted for all three offensive touchdowns with a pair of scoring passes and one rush, and completed 28-of-43 passes for 242 yards - 171 in the second half.

Recent Pirate Signal-Caller Debuts
Rio Johnson's 242-yard passing effort ranks as the third-highest total among recent starting debuts of East Carolina quarterbacks ...His total only trails the 406-yard effort of Patrick Pickney in 2007 against North Carolina and Dominique Davis' 383-yards passing against Tulsa in 2010.

New Signal-Callers...Nationally
East Carolina is one of only 12 programs on the FBS level who introduced a new quarterback (no previous starts) last week ... Others include Akron, Arizona State, Boise State, LSU, Memphis, Michigan State, Northern Illinois, Oklahoma State, Southern Miss, Stanford and Texas A&M.

Starting Over On Offense
Although it returned only 45.7 percent of its scoring and less than 30 percent (28.8) of its total offense yardage it accumulated a year ago, East Carolina's opening day point total (35) against Appalachian State was nearly 10 tallies more than it averaged in 12 games a year ago (26.2 ppg).

Plenty of Production Back for "D"...
On the other hand, the Pirates' defense returned 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).

... And It Showed
Appalachian State's 13 points matched the second-lowest scoring total surrendered by the East Carolina defense in the Ruffin McNeill era ... The Pirates also limited Tulane to 13 points last fall after holding Marshall to 10 during McNeill's first season in Greenville.

A Run-Stopping Streak Of Sorts
When the Pirates allowed only 119 rushing yards to Appalachian State Saturday, it extended a streak of holding opponents to less than 120 ground yards to three-straight contests dating back to the 2011 campaign (115/UCF, 104/ Marshall) ... The longest run ECU allowed against the Mountaineers was a 10-yard effort - tops since limiting Virginia Tech to a long of nine (9) yards on Sept. 1, 2007 - a span of 66 games.

The Third Side of the Ball
First-year special teams coordinator Kirk Doll inherited a unit that displayed a split personality of sorts last year ... East Carolina ranked among the nation's Top 30 in punt return average with a clip of 10.8 yards per attempt, but conversely, the Pirates stood last (120th) at the FBS level in both punt return defense (18.3 ypr) and net punting (29.6 avg.) ... Doll's immediate impact was felt in the opener as ECU averaged 44.5 yards per punt with junior Trent Tignor, set up a score with a 43-yard punt return by sophomore Justin Hardy and cashed in a game-altering 90-yard kickoff return by junior transfer Lance Ray (who opened his collegiate career at SEC-member Arkansas).

A New Kicking Game
For only the second time since 2006, ECU opened a new year without an established placekicker and punter after the graduation of Michael Barbour (95-97 PATs/28-35 FGs in 2010-11) and Ben Ryan (95 punts/39.7 avg. in 2010-11) ... Sophomore Warren Harvey (5-5 PATs, 0-2 FGs) and Tignor manned the placekicking and punter roles, respectively, while Charlie Coggins (long snapper) and C.J. Struyk (short snapper) also took over.

Getting It Back
The Pirates have forced a turnover in 19 of its last 21 games ... In all, the Pirates have forced two or more turnovers in six of the last eight games, which includes three against Appalachian State in the season opener ... ECU has won 10 of 15 games (10-5) when it forces two or more turnovers in the Ruffin McNeill era, but are just 2-9 in contests when it doesn't ... In its meeting against South Carolina a year ago, ECU recovered four Gamecock fumbles.

Ray Reaches Pay Dirt On First Return
Junior transfer Lance Ray got his East Carolina career off to a dazzling start Saturday with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Appalachian State - a first at ECU since `10.

Grove Earns C-USA Player-Of-The-Week Award
Sophomore inside linebacker Jeremy Grove was named the Conference USA Defensive Player-of-the-Week by the league office this week ... The weekly league award is the first of Grove's career ...  He became the first Pirate defender to win the honor since Emmanuel Davis was selected on Nov. 16, 2009 ... Grove recorded nine tackles and a career-best two forced fumbles against the Mountaineers