Sept. 7, 2011
GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina will begin its 2011 home schedule when it welcomes Virginia Tech to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. non-conference contest. The Pirates will try to even their record at 1-1 after suffering a disappointing 56-37 season-opening setback against No. 12 South Carolina inside Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium last week.
The battle against the Hokies also represents the second of three matchups against automatic-qualifying Bowl Championship Series (BCS) members in 2011 for ECU, which follows with an in-state rivalry clash against the North Carolina Tar Heels (Oct. 1), also in Greenville.
The Pirates Against The Hokies
Virginia Tech leads 11-5 ... After the Hokies opened the series with a 37-2 win in 1956, the two programs observed a 31-year hiatus before meeting on an annual basis for eight seasons beginning in 1987 ... After ECU won four of the first seven matchups, Virginia Tech rolled off six straight before the Pirates snapped the streak by upsetting the Hokies 27-22 in Charlotte in 2008 ... Virginia Tech has won four of six in Greenville and seven of nine in Blacksburg.
The Last Meeting
Virginia Tech 49, East Carolina 27
Sept. 18, 2010 @Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.
Reserve tailbacks Darren Evans and David Wilson keyed a 173-yard second half rushing attack that sparked a run of 28 unanswered points to help Virginia Tech pull away for a 49-27 non-conference triumph over East Carolina ... The Pirates racked up 278 total yards and scored on five of their first six possessions in the initial 30 minutes before the Hokies' defense turned up the heat by limiting ECU to just 83 yards in the final two periods ... East Carolina was in good position to maintain its momentum after recovering a Hokie fumble to start the third quarter and enjoyed a first-and-10 call at the VT 13-yard line, but three penalties backed the Pirates up to the 43 before having to settle for a field goal ... The Hokies answered with touchdowns on their next three offensive possessions and added a 68-yard interception return by Rashad Carmichael to put the game away ... Wilson's first scoring run, from three yards out with 4:34 remaining in the third quarter, gave Virginia Tech a 28-27 edge and erased ECU's last lead ... Pirate QB Dominique Davis completed 19-of-25 passes for 188 yards in the first half before being held to only 63 yards with a pair of interceptions in the second.
Ruffin McNeill Vs. Virginia Tech
Despite his long coaching career, Ruffin McNeillhas only faced Virginia Tech four times prior to Saturday's matchup - twice as a member of the ECU coaching staff, once as a head coach (2010):
East Carolina Against The Atlantic Coast Conference
East Carolina has compiled an all-time record of 29-66-1 (.307) against current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference ... In addition to a 5-11 mark against Virginia Tech, the Pirates own an 11-16 ledger against N.C. State, 5-5 vs. Duke, 2-1 vs. Virginia, 2-6 vs. Wake Forest, 2-9 vs. Miami, 2-10-1 vs. North Carolina, 0-7 vs. Florida State and 0-1 vs. Maryland ... The Pirates have dropped seven of the last eight (since 2008) after capturing five wins in eight contests the previous three years ... ECU's 33-27 overtime decision against N.C. State last Oct. 16 halted a six-game slide, which included earlier 2010 setbacks to Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
At Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium - 4-2 In 2010
East Carolina's all-time record at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is 159-81-1 (.662) ... 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 4-2 mark in 2010 (wins against Tulsa, Memphis, N.C. State, Marshall; losses to Navy, SMU), ECU also won a combined 10 of 12 home matchups in 2009 (6-1) and 2008 (4-1) ... ECU has turned in 36 winning seasons at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, including 13 "perfect" ledgers (the last in 1995/5-0).
Ruff At The `Fick: 26-5
McNeill enjoyed a stellar four-year playing career with the Pirates and later came back for a one-season coaching stint in 1992 ... He experienced success playing and coaching at what was then called Ficklen Stadium (now Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium), rolling up a combined 26-5 record (18-1 mark as a player, which included a 10-game win streak to close his career; 4-2 as an assistant coach and 4-2 as a head coach).
The Pirates are 45-29-1 (.607) in home openers since East Carolina started its football program back in 1932 ... A closer look at the last six:
Staying In The East ... Carolina
Lumberton native and East Carolina alumnus Ruffin McNeill's return to Greenville has only enhanced the Pirates' recruiting presence in the state of North Carolina ... Of ECU's 112-man preseason roster, nearly 65 percent joined the Pirate program after playing their prep careers in N.C. ... A total of 71 rostered players are residents of the Tar Heel State, many coming from eastern half of the state ... In fact, the ECU program was built and has thrived on local talent on and east of the I-95 corridor - a closer look at current active NFL players from "Down East" - WR Terrance Copper (Kansas City Chiefs) - Washington, N.C.; FB Vonta Leach (Baltimore Ravens) - Rowland, N.C.; OL Willie Smith (Washington Redskins) - Kenly, N.C.; OL Guy Whimper (Jacksonville Jaguars) - Havelock, N.C.; DE C.J. Wilson (Green Bay Packers) - Belhaven, N.C.
Ten First-Time Starters ... Again
Similar to the Ruffin McNeill's initial year at the helm in 2010, the Pirates featured 10 first-time starters in the opener against South Carolina Saturday - six on the offensive side of the ball (IWR Danny Webster, LT Jordan Davis, LG Adhem Elsawi, RG Will Simmons, RB Reggie Bullock, IWR Justin Hardy) and four on defense (OLB Chris Baker, ILB Daniel Drake, ILB Jeremy Grove and CB Leonard Paulk) ... After the initial 10 opened the campaign in 2010, a total of 14 more followed throughout the course of the season - a stark contrast to the entire `09 campaign when only eight Pirates made their initial start.
| Pirate to Watch
Chris Baker | Jr. | Outside Linebacker
• Made East Carolina debut and first career start against South Carolina, recording four tackles
• During initial series of the contest, booked first stop and fumble recovery of career
• Was one of four Pirates to recover a South Carolina fumble
• Tallied three of four stops on Gamecocks' first 16 plays of the game
Analyzing The Starters By Class
Included in the list of starters against South Carolina were three freshmen (IWR Danny Webster, IWR Justin Hardy and ILB Jeremy Grove), seven sophomores (LT Jeremy Davis, LG Adhem Elsawi, RG Will Simmons, RT Grant Harner, DE Derrell Johnson, DE Matt Milner, FS Damon Magazu), seven juniors (RB Reggie Bullock, OWR Andrew Bodenheimer, NG Michael Brooks, OLB Chris Baker, ILB Daniel Drake, OLB Marke Powell, CB Leonard Paulk) and five seniors (OWR Lance Lewis, C Doug Polochak, QB Dominique Davis, CB Derek Blacknall, SS Bradley Jacobs).
The Good, Bad And Ugly
ECU was on the wrong side of the turnover battle (-1/5-4) against South Carolina and, not surprisingly, lost the game ... In nine of the last 10 contests during which the Pirates have committed more turnovers than forced, they have suffered a defeat (lone win was a 44-43 triumph at Southern Miss last Oct. 9) ... When the Pirate defense forced a fumble on the Gamecocks' opening drive, it marked the ninth-straight contest which ECU forced a turnover ... In all, East Carolina recovered four South Carolina fumbles - most since TCU coughed it up five times on Nov. 23, 2002 ... Of their four pick-ups, the Pirates converted three into scores (two TDs, one FG) after only cashing in 54.4 percent of their TOs a year ago ... On the other hand, with its four lost fumbles, ECU has now surrendered six ground giveaways in the last three games.
More Good News, Bad News
South Carolina's 131 passing yards were the fewest surrendered by the Pirates to a non-option team since allowing 127 to Marshall on Oct. 3, 2009 ... On the flipside, the Gamecocks' 220 rushing yards and five ground scores against East Carolina pushed the total to 1,694 and 28 over the last six games - an average of 282.3 yards and 4.7 TDs per contest.
Trying To Catch A Break
Costly injuries were part of the reason for ECU's defensive struggles last season ... Sophomore OLB Justin Dixon, junior OLB Marke Powell and junior NG Michael Brooks all missed from five to eight games a year ago, but returned to fall camp at full health and helped bolster a unit that surrendered nearly 130 yards below its average of a year ago (351/478.8) Saturday against South Carolina ... It marked a break for a unit that lost two highly-regarded JC transfers for the season before ECU even boarded a bus to Charlotte - NG Leroy Vick (knee/spring), DE John Lattimore (heel/Aug. 19).