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ECU Travels To In-State Rival North Carolina

Go Tigers! Junior running back Vintavious Cooper
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Junior running back Vintavious Cooper
Go Tigers!

Sept. 20, 2012

East Carolina Game 4: North Carolina
Date Saturday, September 22
Time 3:30 p.m. (ET)
Location Chapel Hill, N.C. (Kenan Stadium)
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GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina will face the second and last of its AQ Bowl Championship Series (BCS) opponents on its 2012 schedule when the Pirates travel to Chapel Hill on Saturday, Sept, 22, to meet North Carolina at Kenan Stadium. The meeting against the Tar Heels will also close out an atypical three-game road swing for ECU, which will return to C-USA play next week when it welcomes UTEP to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. East Carolina, which will try to improve its record to 3-1 for only the second time since 2001, will also be looking to become the first Pirate squad to capture a victory in an Atlantic Coast Conference stadium since 2006 (21-16 at NC State) and end a run of six-straight setbacks.

East Carolina Records and Streaks

  • Eleven bowl appearances since 1990; seven since 2000 (five of the last six years) ...
  • Has won four-straight games (and 32 of 37) when scoring 30 or more points ...
  • Has lost 12-straight games when scoring 20 or more less points ...
  • Has dropped eight of the last nine non-conference road games ...
  • Has won 16 of the last 17 games when converting third downs at 50% or higher ...

The Last Meeting
North Carolina35
East Carolina20
October 1, 2011
Greenville, N.C.
North Carolina Downs East Carolina, 35-20
A 28-point outburst in the first half Saturday helped propel North Carolina to a 35-20 victory over East Carolina at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The contest was played in front of a facility-record 50,610 fans.

The Pirates Against The Tar Heels
North Carolina leads the all-time series by an 11-2-1 count ... The 2012 clash between the Pirates and Tar Heels will mark the third meeting in the series' last four contests at Kenan Stadium ... East Carolina's only wins in the series came in 1975 and via a time-expiring 34-yard field goal by Ben Hartman in a 2007 matchup at Greenville's Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The 24-24 deadlock in 1979 represents one of two all-time ties in ECU's history against current FBS members (Louisiana Tech in 1989 is the other) ... ECU has averaged 18.4 points per game against the Tar Heels, but is giving up on average 29.6.

East Carolina Against the Atlantic Coast Conference
East Carolina has compiled an all-time record of 29-68-1 (.301) against current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference ... In addition to a 2-11-1 mark against North Carolina, the Pirates own an 11-16 ledger against NC State, 5-5 vs. Duke, 5-12 vs. Virginia Tech, 2-1 vs. Virginia, 2-6 vs. Wake Forest, 2-9 vs. Miami, 0-7 vs. Florida State and 0-1 vs. Maryland ... The Pirates have dropped nine of the last 10 (since 2008) after capturing five wins in eight contests the previous three years ... ECU's 33-27 overtime decision against N.C. State on Oct. 16, 2010 halted a six-game slide, which included earlier 2010 setbacks to Virginia Tech and North Carolina.

McNeill Against North Carolina - As a Player
Ruffin McNeill squared off against North Carolina three times during his playing career at East Carolina and amassed nine career tackles, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup ... As a safety under Pat Dye, McNeill suffered low-scoring setbacks as a freshman (12-10) and junior (14-10) before the Pirates and Tar Heels battled to a 24-24 deadlock during his senior campaign.


McNeill Against North Carolina - As A Coach
Despite his long coaching career, Ruffin McNeill has only faced the Tar Heels as a coach four times prior to Saturday's matchup - two as ECU's head coach and two as a member of the Clemson staff ... He has amassed a 1-3 record with the win coming in 1986 when he was a graduate assistant at Clemson.

McNeill Against Fedora
In addition to their first two face-to-face meetings as rival C-USA head coaches in 2010 and 2011, East Carolina's Ruffin McNeill and North Carolina's Larry Fedora stood on opposite sidelines on five occasions while assistants on the UNLV, Texas Tech, Air Force and Oklahoma State staffs ... Fedora's Falcons defeated McNeill's Rebels in a pair of matchups in the late 1990s before the Cowboys took two of three from the Red Raiders while both were in the Big 12 Conference ... McNeill is 2-5 against teams that have Fedora on the coaching staff.

Larry Fedora Against the Pirates
Larry Fedora will see East Carolina on the opposite sideline as a head coach for the fifth time (2-2) Saturday, following the Pirates' 25-20 and 44-43 victories in 2009 and 2010, respectively, and the Golden Eagles' 21-3 triumph during the 2008 season and a 48-28 win last Nov. 5 - a contest that featured four USM first-half non-offensive TDs ... ECU never competed against Baylor, Air Force, Middle Tennessee, Florida and Oklahoma State while Fedora served on those staffs as an assistant coach.

The "Anytime, Anywhere" Scheduling Philosophy
The Pirates have faced off against 21 (4-17) opponents from automatic-qualifying BCS conferences in the last five years, 18 in regular season play alone ... ECU last win against an AQ squad came in 2010 when the team outlasted N.C. State by a 33-27 score in overtime ... The Pirates lost to South Carolina by a 48-10 score earlier this season in Columbia. S.C.

Last Time Out
A swarming Pirate defense forced three turnovers, recorded 12 tackles for lost yardage and capped a 21-point third-quarter with a fumble return for a touchdown to spark East Carolina to a 24-14 Conference USA victory over Southern Miss on Saturday, Sept. 15 ... The triumph was ECU's third in the last four meetings at M.M. Roberts Stadium while also serving as the Pirates' fifth-straight win in a C-USA opener ... The 12 hits behind the line of scrimmage, which included five sacks, accounted for a loss of 59 yards ... East Carolina also converted the three takeaways into 14 points, six coming on Montese Overton's 16-yard scoring return with 1:19 left in the third quarter that pushed the Pirates' lead to 24-7 ... Although getting off to a sluggish start with only three points and 74 yards of total offense in the first half, ECU's offensive unit erased a 7-3 deficit on its second possession of the third period when Shane Carden connected with Justin Hardy on a 55-yard TD strike at the 4:49 mark ... Carden, who completed 13-of-27 passes for 171 yards in his first collegiate start, extended the lead to 17-7 two minutes later with an eight-yard scoring run after the Pirate defense forced the first of two Southern Miss fumbles ... The Golden Eagles drove 70 yards on nine plays on their first possession of the contest to jump out to a 7-0 lead before ECU held USM to just 45 yards the remainder of the half ... Punter Trent Tignor played a key role in the victory both early and late from a field position standpoint, pinning Southern Miss inside the two-yard line on two boots and averaging 42.2 yards on 10 attempts ... On the flipside, the Pirates turned in their first miscue-free effort of the season after opening the campaign with seven in their first two games.

Overall On the Road - 1-1 in '12
Since joining C-USA in 1997, East Carolina is 42-59 (.416) when playing away from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium ... The Pirates have split their only two road games in 2012, falling at No. 9 South Carolina on Sept. 8 before capturing a victory at Southern Miss last week ... A year ago, ECU dropped four of six road contests (wins at Memphis and Navy, losses vs. South Carolina/Charlotte, 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.

Reaching Another Milestone
The Pirates captured program overall win No. 400 against Southern Miss on Saturday ... The previous milestone of 300 victories came against Stanford in the St. Jude Liberty Bowl on Dec. 30, 1995 - a span of less than 17 years.

Delivering In Start Number One
Sophomore quarterback Shane Carden earned the win in his first career start against Southern Miss ... After a rocky first half that saw him go 6-for-17 for 78 yards with his receivers also dropping several catchable balls, Carden stayed calm and was 7-10 for 93 yards in the second half including a 55-yard strike to Justin Hardy - which ranks as the longest play from scrimmage in 2012 - for a touchdown ... Carden also contributed to the offense with an eight-yard touchdown scamper in the victory for his first career rushing score ... He has a current streak of 44 consecutive passing attempts without an interception and helped author East Carolina's first turnover-free contest since 2011 (Navy).

Slowing the Run
After limiting Marcus Lattimore's South Carolina rushing attack to 131 yards two weeks ago and then following up by surrendering just 91 yards to Southern Miss Saturday, ECU extended a streak of holding opponents to less than 135 ground yards to five-straight contests dating back to the 2011 campaign (115/UCF, 104/Marshall in `11; 119/Appalachian State, 131/SC, 91/USM in `12) ... The Pirates have yet to surrender a run of 24 or more yards this year.

First Quarter Blues
East Carolina has yet to score in the first quarter of play this year as the Pirates are on the short end of a 28-0 ledger ... On a related note, ECU has surrendered a score on its opponents' first possession in five consecutive games (UCF/Marshall in `11, Appalachian State/South Carolina/Southern Miss in `12) ... The Pirates haven't scored first since the UTEP game last Nov. 12. ... On a positive note, ECU holds the scoring edge in every quarter besides the first (17-10 in the second; 31-17 in the third and 21-20 in the fourth)

Turnovers - The Good News
The Pirates have forced a turnover in 21 of its last 23 games ... In all, East Carolina has created two or more turnovers in seven of the last 10 games, which includes three each against Appalachian State and Southern Miss ... ECU has won 11 of 16 games (11-5) when it forces two or more turnovers in the Ruffin McNeill era, but are just 2-10 in contests when it doesn't ... Part of the Pirates' early success has been their ball-stripping skills with the team ranking tied for sixth national with five fumbles recovered.

Turnovers - The Great News
Of its five fumble recoveries this year, East Carolina has already returned two for touchdowns (Chip Thompson 45-yarder vs. Appalachian State, Montese Overton 16-yarder at Southern Miss) - which stands first nationally.

Turnovers - The Bad News
A year ago, East Carolina's inability to hang on to the football gave the Pirates the dubious distinction of a top national standing in the giveaway rankings (with Iowa State) ... In all, ECU turned it over a total of 35 (15 fumbles, 20 interceptions) occasions in 2011, and have opened the 2012 season with seven (two fumbles, five interceptions) ... Although Shane Carden booked a turnover free performance against Southern Miss in his first start, the five overall picks (Rio Johnson/4, Carden/1) currently stand fourth among all FBS programs.

Not Too Many Flags
After the first three contests, the Pirates are the "third-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 before earning a season-high four at Southern Miss in its Conference USA opener last week.

Conference / National Individual Rankings
Inside receiver Justin Hardy ranks fourth in the conference in receptions (19), seventh in scoring (18 pts.) and eighth in receiving yards per game (80.3) ... Inside linebacker Jeremy Grove is tied for the league lead and is placed ninth in the country in forced fumbles per game (0.67) ... Punter Trent Tignor ranks sixth in Conference USA and 26th in the nation in punting (43.8) ...  Kicker returner Lance Ray leads the conference and is placed 29th in the NCAA in kickoff returns with an average of 26.4 yards an attempt.

Conference USA Team Rankings
The Pirates enter this week as the stingiest rush defense in the conference (113.7 yds. per game) ... ECU has recorded the second-most sacks of all league members (8.0) ... The team is also placed third in punt returns (15.0), total defense (423.7), scoring defense (25.0), kick returns (26.9) and red zone defense (70 percent).