Pirates Take On Southern Miss In C-USA Opener

UABSPORTS.COM Junior receiver Reese Wiggins
Junior receiver Reese Wiggins

Sept. 13, 2012

East Carolina Game 3: Southern Miss
Date Saturday, September 15
Time 3:30 p.m. (ET)
Location Hattiesburg, Miss. ( M.M. Roberts Stadium)
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Television: CBS Sports Network
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GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina will officially open its 2012 Conference USA schedule by traveling to Hattiesburg for a 3:30 p.m. (ET) matchup against Southern Miss on Saturday, Sept. 15. The Pirates, in the midst of a three-game road swing, will try to move their record to 2-1 for only the second time since 2001 after falling 48-10 at No. 9 South Carolina last week. The contest against the Golden Eagles will temporarily halt ECU's two-game slate against AQ Bowl Championship Series (BCS) members as the Pirates will battle the North Carolina Tar Heels next week before returning to league play by hosting UTEP at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Sept. 29.

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 12-straight games when scoring 20 or more less points ...
  • Has won 14 of the last 21 (and 18 of 26) Conference USA games ...
  • Has lost four of the last five (and five of seven C-USA road games ...
  • Has won 13 of the last 16 (and 19 of 24) C-USA East Division games ...
  • Has won 10 of its last 14 road games against C-USA East Division opponents

The Pirates Against The Golden Eagles
Southern Miss leads 27-10, but the two long-time rivals have split the last six meetings ... ECU has dropped 11 of 18 in Hattiesburg while posting a 3-16 mark against the Golden Eagles in Greenville ... The schools have met every season since 1983 although the first game of the series was played in 1951 ... Last season Southern Miss used four first-half non-offensive touchdowns, including a pair of interception returns for scores, to roll past East Carolina 48-24 in a battle of Conference USA East Division leaders.

McNeill Against Southern Miss - As a Player
Ruffin McNeill squared off against Southern Miss two times during his playing career at East Carolina ... As a safety under Pat Dye, McNeill enjoyed his collegiate debut in 1976 with a 48-0 Pirate victory at Ficklen Stadium before the Golden Eagles used a game-winning 35-yard field goal by Randy Boyette in the third quarter to nip ECU 17-16 during his junior campaign ... McNeill made his ECU debut with one tackle in the first game and recorded five stops (three solo) in the second meeting.

McNeill Against Southern Miss - As A Coach
Despite his long coaching career, Ruffin McNeill has faced Southern Miss just three times prior to Saturday's matchup - ironically, all as a member of ECU coaching staffs in 1992, 2010 and 2011 ... He is 1-2 all-time against the Golden Eagles with the win coming in 2010 in Hattiesburg.

Ellis Johnson Against the Pirates
Ellis Johnson has seen East Carolina on the opposite sideline a total of five (4-1) times during his career as an assistant coach - two while on the Southern Miss staff ... The Golden Eagles racked up 45-42 and 41-27 wins in 1988 and 1989, respectively, while his other pair of victories occurred during his tenures with Alabama (23-22 in 1998) and South Carolina (56-37 in 2011) ... Johnson's only setback to the Pirates came during his first year as a coach in 1975 (3-0 while at The Citadel).

The Last Meeting
Southern Miss48
East Carolina28
November 5, 2011
Greenville, N.C.
Southern Miss Downs Pirates, 48-28
Final Stats l Coach McNeill's Comments l Player Post-Game Comments
Southern Miss raced out to a 21-7 advantage in the first quarter and never looked back on its way to a 48-28 victory over East Carolina at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday.

McNeill Against Johnson
Despite a combined 57 years coaching at the collegiate level, East Carolina's Ruffin McNeill and Southern Miss' Ellis Johnson have only faced each other once prior to Saturday - a Sept. 3, 2011 matchup between the Pirates and South Carolina at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium.

Overall On the Road - 0-1 in '12 and 2-4 in `11

Since joining C-USA in 1997, East Carolina is 41-59 (.410) when playing away from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium ... The Pirates have opened their last two seasons with a loss to South Carolina on the road, albeit a neutral site setback to the Gamecocks last year ... Following its defeat in Charlotte, ECU dropped three of its last five road contests (wins at Memphis and Navy, losses at Houston, UTEP and Marshall) to wrap up the `11 campaign ... 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.

Against Conference USA Opponents

Since playing its first season in Conference USA (1997), East Carolina has produced an all-time 65-47 (.580) league record ... Overall, the Pirates have won 14 of the last 21, 21 of the last 30 and 23 of the last 33 C-USA games, but in road league contests, ECU has lost four of the last five. ... The Pirates are one of five teams in the conference with a winning record in league-only games along with Southern Miss (83-34), Houston (64-53), Tulsa (41-16) and Central Florida (36-20).

Battling Within the East Division - 3-2 in 2011
The Pirates are 25-10 (.714) against Conference USA East Division opponents since the league implemented divisional play in 2005 ... ECU is 14-4 at home and 11-6 on the road in games against Marshall, Memphis, Southern Miss, UAB and UCF ... Before finishing 2011 with a 3-2 record (wins over UAB, MEM and UCF, losses vs. USM and MAR), the Pirates were 4-1 in 2010, 5-0 in 2009, 4-1 in 2008, 3-2 in 2007, 4-1 in 2006 and 2-3 in 2005.

C-USA Opener On The Road ....A First in Five Years

East Carolina hasn't opened its Conference USA schedule on the road since 2008 (Sept. 13) when the 14th-ranked Pirates edged Tulane 28-24 inside the Louisiana Superdome ... The last time ECU faced Southern Miss to open its conference slate was in 2007, which resulted in a 28-21 victory for the Golden Eagles at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium ... In all, the Pirates have started league play with USM on three occasions since gaining C-USA membership, also falling in 1997 and 2005 (in Greenville).

Carden Earns The Start

Sophomore quarterback Shane Carden will get the first start of his career when he gets the nod against Southern Miss this weekend ... Carden earned the opportunity to start after going 12-for-18 for 140 yards and a touchdown against No. 9 South Carolina on Sept. 8 ... Junior Rio Johnson started the first two games after winning a heated battle with Carden during spring and fall camp ... Johnson has completed 46 pass for 435 yards and two throwing touchdowns plus a rushing score this season

Slowing the Run

When the Pirates allowed only 131 yards to Marcus Lattimore's South Carolina rushing attack on Saturday, it extended a streak of holding opponents to less than 135 ground yards to four-straight road contests dating back to the 2011 campaign (115/UCF, 104/Marshall, and 119/Appalachian State in '12) ... East Carolina still hasn't allowed a rush of over 17 yards this season.

Keeping the Hankies At A Minimum

After the first two contests, the Pirates are the "second-fewest" penalized team in the nation so far this year ... After getting whistled for just two penalties in its opener against Appalachian State, ECU had only one yellow flag thrown in its direction at South Carolina on Saturday ... The only team that has been penalized less is Central Michigan ... The Chippewas have yet to be called for a penalty this season.

Unfriendly Road Scoreboards

In their last nine road games, the Pirates have surrendered 381 points - an average of over 40 (42.3) points per game ... In fact, ECU has given up 42 or more points in 10 of 14 road games during the Ruffin McNeill era ... The four lone exceptions came in the last four contests of the 2011 road schedule, limiting Memphis to 17 points, Navy to 35, UTEP to 22and Marshall to 34 ... The Pirates have surrendered 50 or more points on four occasions in the last two-plus years - 62 at Rice and 51 to Maryland in 2010, and 56 to South Carolina and 56 at Houston during the 2011 campaign.

Finding the Right Targets

East Carolina's inexperience at the quarterback position has also paid a price in the turnover department as the Pirates share the national lead for most interceptions thrown after two contests ... First-year starter Rio Johnson (four) and Shane Carden (one) have combined for five picks thus far.

Slow Starters

East Carolina has yet to score in the first quarter of play this year as the Pirates are on the short end of a 21-0 ledger ... Appalachian State closed out the first 15 minutes of action with a 7-0 lead before South Carolina held a 14-0 advantage last week ... On a related note, ECU has surrendered a score on its opponents' first possession in four consecutive games (UCF and Marshall to close out 2011, and Appalachian State and South Carolina to open 2012).

Protecting The Quarterback
ECU's offensive line has allowed the second-fewest sacks of any FBS unit so far this season (one), an impressive accomplishment considering the Pirates kept Gamecock All-America DE candidates Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney out of the ECU backfield last weekend.

Conference / National Individual Rankings

Inside receiver Justin Hardy leads Conference USA and ranks 25th in the country with his average of seven receptions a game ... Inside linebacker Jeremy Grove is tied for second in the nation with his two forced fumbles ... Cornerback Adonis Armstrong ranks 13th in passes defended with four ... Punter Trent Tignor is 17th with his punting average of 45.6 yards a boot ... Kick returner Lance Ray leads the conference and is placed 22nd in the NCAA in kickoff returns with an average of 26.4 yards an attempt.