Sept. 27, 2012
GREENVILLE, N.C. - After facing two AQ Bowl Championship Series (BCS) opponents in its first four games, including a South Carolina program that is ranked among college football's Top 10, East Carolina will return to Conference USA play this week when it hosts UTEP in a pivotal early season interdivisional clash at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 29. The Pirates will try to move their league record to 2-0 for the third time in the last four years and bounce back from a 27-6 setback suffered at North Carolina last week when they meet the Miners. ECU, playing its first home contest since Sept. 1, will also attempt to close out the month of September with three wins for the first time since 2008 before opening October at UCF Thursday.
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 13-straight games when scoring 20 or more less points ...
- Has won 11 of 12 games when forcing three or more turnovers ...
- Has won 16 of the last 17 games when converting third downs at 50% or higher ...
- Has won 15 of the last 22 (and 19 of 27) Conference USA games
- Has won 13 of the last 15 (and 18 of 22) C-USA home games ...
- Has won nine of the last 15 games against Conference-USA West Division members ...
- Has won six of the last eight home games against C-USA West Division members ...
The Last Meeting
November 12, 2011
El Paso, Texas
The Pirates Against The Miners
East Carolina leads 2-1 ...The Pirates completed a two-game sweep during the first interdivisional meetings between the programs in 2007 and 2008 as both teams combined for 161 points and 1,941 yards of offense ... On the flipside, UTEP notched its first victory in the series last November in a turnover-plagued defensive struggle at the Sun Bowl that only produced a combined 39 points.
Ruffin McNeill Against UTEP
Ruffin McNeill has faced UTEP as a coach four times (3-1) prior to Saturday's game ... In addition to his last meeting against the Miners as ECU's head coach in 2011, he also squared off against UTEP twice as a member of the Texas Tech staff and once while at Fresno State.
Mike Price Against The Pirates
Mike Price saw East Carolina on the opposite sideline for the first time during the series opener in 2007 and is 1-2 ... The Pirates never competed against Weber State (FSC, formerly I-AA) or Washington State when Price was heading those programs ... In addition, Price also never saw ECU as an assistant coach (1969-1980) at Washington State, Puget Sound and Missouri ... The Pirates did face off against Missouri twice in their history (loss in 1982, win in 1983) but Price had left the Tigers' program two years earlier to accept his first head coaching position at Weber State.
McNeill Against Price
Ruffin McNeill and Mike Price stood on opposite sidelines on two occasions before last year's ECU-UTEP matchup - both while McNeill was an assistant on Mike Leach's staff at Texas Tech and Price was heading the Miner program ... The Red Raiders advanced to bowl games in each season, defeating Minnesota in the Insight.com Bowl (`06) and Virginia in the Gator Bowl (`07).
Last Meeting In Greenville Against The Miners - East Carolina 53 - UTEP 21
East Carolina scored on its first seven possessions to jump out to a 40-7 lead and never looked back on the way to a convincing 53-21 Conference USA victory over UTEP in the regular season finale for both teams in 2007 ... The Pirates used a career-high four-touchdown and 111-yard rushing effort from Brandon Simmons and a personal-best 106-yard receiving day from Darryl Freeney to spark the ECU offense ... Defensively, the Pirates shut down the Miners' running game, surrendering only 57 yards, while picking off UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe three times - two in the first half ... Simmons' second scoring run, a six-yarder with 4:24 left in the second quarter, pushed East Carolina's lead to 24-0 before the Miners got on the scoreboard ... Simmons added a seven-yard TD catch from Patrick Pinkney and a two-yard plunge to open the second half before Ben Hartman drilled the second of four field goals to make it a 40-7 cushion ... Pinkney completed 17-of-23 passes for 228 yards to complement a ground game that racked up a season-high 231 yards ... ECU, which also netted a season-best 475 total yards, did not punt - a first since 1983 ... Cornerback Travis Simmons and linebacker Nick Johnson netted pass thefts in the first 30 minutes, while the late Spencer Hampton picked off Vittatoe in the Pirate endzone with no time remaining to close out the C-USA East Division champions' home schedule.
Against The Lone Star State
The Pirates have won 16 of 27 all-time matchups (16-11) against FBS programs from the state of Texas ... ECU is 6-5 against UH, 2-1 vs. UTEP, 2-2 vs. Rice, 2-1 vs. TCU, 2-2 vs. SMU, 1-0 vs. Texas Tech and 1-0 against North Texas ... East Carolina has never faced current Big 12 Conference members Baylor, Texas A&M or Texas on the gridiron.
Ruffin McNeill vs. Texas
Although he's still looking for his first win against a Texas-based FBS institution as East Carolina's head coach (0-4), Ruffin McNeill has recorded an all-time record of 36-20 (.643) when coaching against Lone Star State opponents ... Most of the games occurred when McNeill was wearing the Red & Black while on the Texas Tech staff, including a combined 30 contests against Baylor (10-0), Texas (2-8) and Texas A&M (7-3) ... He's also battled SMU (6-3), TCU (3-1), UTEP (3-1), Rice (3-2), North Texas (2-0) and Houston (0-2) ... Since heading the Pirate program, McNeill has dropped a pair of "Texas" games in each season - falling to Rice and SMU in 2010 before coming up short against Houston and UTEP the following year (2011).
Nearly Halfway Finished By Oct. 1?
East Carolina will play its fifth game in the month of September when it battles UTEP Saturday as a result of both a calendar and scheduling quirk ... In fact, there have only been seven other seasons in the annals of Pirate football history which also have featured a similar early workload: 1978 (3-2 record), 1979 (2-3), 1984 (1-4), 1990 (2-3), 1995 (3-2), 2003 (0-5) and 2007 (2-3).
Against Conference USA Opponents
Since playing its first season in Conference USA (1997), East Carolina has produced an all-time 66- 47 (.584) league record ... Overall, the Pirates have won 15 of the last 22, 19 of the last 27 and 24 of the last 34 C-USA games, while in home league contests, ECU has won 13 of the last 15.
Playing Against The Wild West
East Carolina owns a 12-9 mark (7-3/home, 5-6/road) against the "other side" since the league began divisional play in 2005 - sweeping Tulane (three meetings), taking two of three from UTEP (two), splitting with SMU (four), Tulsa (four) and Rice (four), while dropping two of three to Houston ... The Pirates were 1-2 in 2011 after defeating the Green Wave and falling to the Cougars and Miners after a similar 1-2 ledger in Ruffin McNeill's first campaign (2010) ... ECU was 2-1 in 2009 and also took two of three regular season matchups in 2008 (3-0/2007, 1-2/'06, 2-1/'05) ... On the flipside, East Carolina has booked a 26-10 overall mark against foes in its own East Division.
Last Time Out
North Carolina junior quarterback Bryn Renner passed for 321 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while a relentless Tar Heel defense applied plenty of pressure with seven sacks as UNC rolled to a 27-6 non-conference win over East Carolina ...Renner keyed a pivotal three-minute span in the third quarter that extended UNC's narrow 10-6 halftime lead into a 24-6 cushion with a 62-yard scoring strike to Sean Tapley ... On the Pirates' next possession, linebacker Kevin Reddick sacked Shane Carden at the ECU 15-yard line and produced the game's only turnover that quickly resulted in a four-yard TD run by Giovani Bernard four plays later ... Defensively, the Tar Heels slammed the door on the Pirates in the final 30 minutes by netting six of their seven overall sacks and allowing just 71 total yards on 30 plays - an average of just 2.4 per snap ... Renner got off to a quick start, completing 17-of-22 passes for 208 yards in the first half, but two long East Carolina scoring drives that consumed a combined 12:33 off the clock kept the ball out of UNC's hands ... The Pirates marched down to the Tar Heel five- and nine-yard lines on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter only to have the drives stall before settling for a pair of Warren Harvey field goals ... Trailing by only four, ECU forced North Carolina to a three-and-out to open the second half but a 13-yard loss on a sack and an ensuing punt preceded Tapley`s catch with 10:45 remaining in the third quarter ... UNC's sacks netted a loss of 49 yards that put a dent in the Pirates' rushing total, but on the flipside, ECU limited All-ACC performer Bernard to just 50 yards on 18 carries.
At Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium - 1-0 In 2012
East Carolina's all-time record at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is 163-84-1 (.659) ... 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 3-3 mark in 2011 and a 4-2 clip in 2010, ECU won a combined 10 of 12 home matchups in 2009 (6-1) and 2008 (4-1) ... Overall, ECU has turned in 36 winning seasons at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Playing In Front Of Pirate Nation
East Carolina has always been able to claim plenty of hometown support, even more so when playing at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturdays during the fall - establishing itself as C-USA's attendance leader on an annual basis ... In all, a total of 6,918,365 fans have seen the Pirates in action since 1963, and in the last four-plus years, ECU has averaged 46,513 (1,116,302/24 regular season games) ... Since the completion of a 7,000-seat expansion project in 2010 that pushed the capacity to 50,000, the Pirates have set back-to-back school records in total attendance and season average attendance, breaking 2010 marks (297,987/49,665) with 300,069 and 50,012 figures in 2011 ... The Pirates opened 2012 by welcoming 49,023 to the Appalachian State game on Sept. 1.
Looking to Restore the `O' Power
After opening the season with a combined 793 yards of total offense (390/ Appalachian State, season-high 403/South Carolina) in its first two games, East Carolina has generated only a combined 461 total yards in the last two contests (228/Southern Miss, 233/North Carolina) ... The Pirates have failed to rack up at least 250 yards of offense in back-to-back outings only once since 2004 (237/West Virginia, 247/North Carolina in 2009).
Tignor's Early-Season Workout
Trent Tignor has launched 17 punts in East Carolina's last two games, the most in a successive two-game period since his current mentor Ryan Dougherty had 17 in back-to-back weeks against Louisville (Oct. 2) and Tulane (Oct. 9) in 2004 ... Tignor earned C-USA Special Teams Player-of the- Week honors for his efforts at USM on Sept. 15 where he averaged 42.2 yards per boot in 10 attempts and planted three inside the 20-yard line.
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 35-0 ledger ... The most recent run of early struggles came during the 2005 campaign when ECU went five-straight games without a first period tally against SMU, Memphis, UCF, Tulsa and Marshall ... From a "getting an early lead" perspective, the Pirates haven't scored first since the UTEP game last Nov. 12.
A Pirate Way of Life
The Pirates have forced a turnover in 21 of its last 24 games ... In all, East Carolina has created two or more turnovers in seven of the last 11 games, which includes three each against Appalachian State and Southern Miss this year ... ECU has won 11 of 16 games (11-5) when it forces two or more turnovers in the Ruffin McNeill era, but are just 2-11 in contests when it doesn't.
Cashing Strips for Dough
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.
Keeping The Flags At A Minimum
After the first four 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 four at Southern Miss and a season- high five at North Carolina last week.
Conference / National Individual Rankings
Inside receiver Justin Hardy ranks second in the conference in punt return average (11.20), tied for fifth in receptions per game (5.75), 11th in receiving yards per contest (66.50) and tied for 15th in scoring (4.50) ... Punter Trent Tignor ranks fourth in the league and 28th in the country in punting (43.15) ... Kicker Warren Harvey currently is placed tied for fourth in field goals a game (1.00) ... Kick returner Lance Ray is sixth in kickoff returns with his average of 22.6 yards per attempt ... Linebacker Montese Overton finds himself ninth in Conference USA is tackles for loss per game (1.17) ... Quarterback Shane Carden has risen to ninth in the league in passing efficiency (110.85)
Conference USA Team Rankings
The Pirates enter this week as the stingiest rush defense in the conference (117.5 yds. per game) ... ECU has recorded the third-most tackles for loss (1.17) and the fourth-highest sacks of all league members (2.25) ... The team is also placed third in total defense (430.25), scoring defense (25.50) and red zone defense (71.4) plus fourth in kick returns (22.89).