ECU Travels To Orlando For Pivotal C-USA Battle

UABSPORTS.COM Senior Derrick Harris
Senior Derrick Harris

Oct. 2, 2012

East Carolina Game 6: UCF
Date Thursday, October 4
Time 8:00 p.m. (ET)
Location Orlando, Fla. (Bright House Networks Stadium)
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GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina will return to Conference USA East Division play when it faces UCF on Thursday night, Oct. 4, at Bright House Networks Stadium in Orlando, Fla. The Pirates will try to move their league record to 3-0 for the only the third time since 2001 and attempt to complete the first half of their overall schedule by matching a Ruffin McNeill era-best 4-2 mark when they meet the Knights. ECU, which closed out a five-game September slate with three wins for the first time since 2008 after a 28-18 victory over UTEP Saturday, will play its fourth road contest of the 2012 campaign before returning home to play four of the remaining six at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

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 12 of 13 games when forcing three or more turnovers ...
  • Has won 17 of the last 18 games when converting third downs at 50% or higher ...
  • Has won 16 of the last 23 (and 20 of 28) Conference USA games ...
  • Has lost four of the last six (and five of eight) C-USA road games ...
  • Has won 14 of the last 17 (and 20 of the last 25) C-USA Division games ...
  • Has won 11 of its last15 road games against C-USA East Division opponents ...

The Last Meeting
East Carolina38
November 19, 2011
Greenville, N.C.
East Carolina Edges UCF, 38-31
Dominique Davis threw four touchdown passes, including a pair to Reese Wiggins, but it took a 56-yard touchdown run by Torrance Hunt with 2:10 left in the game for East Carolina to beat Central Florida 38-31 on Saturday.

A Sunshine State Homecoming
A total of four (4) players in OL Jordan Davis (Fort Walton Beach), OL Drew Gentry (Tallahassee), OL Grant Harner (Jacksonville) and OWR Lance Ray (Quincy) will have an opportunity to possibly face prep teammates and renew high school rivalries when East Carolina squares off against UCF in Florida.

The Pirates Against the Golden Knights
East Carolina leads 9-2 ... The Pirates had their four-game winning streak, which began in 2006, snapped in a 49-35 setback to the Knights during their last visit to Orlando (2010) ... UCF posted its first victory in the series during the two teams' initial Conference USA matchup in 2005 ... Seven (6-1) of the last 10 tilts have taken place in Greenville, while ECU suffered its first-ever loss in four overall Orlando meetings in the aforementioned 2010 battle

Ruffin McNeill Against Central Florida - As A Coach
Ruffin McNeill has faced Central Florida as a coach three times (1-2) prior to Saturday's game ... In addition to his last meeting against the Golden Knights as ECU's head coach in 2010 and 2011, he also squared off against UCF as an assistant coach at North Alabama in 1988.

George O'Leary Against The Pirates
Other than seven recent meetings between the Pirates and Knights as C-USA opponents (beginning in 2005), George O'Leary's extensive coaching background did not include any previous matchups against East Carolina ... After UCF posted a 30-20 road win in O'Leary's initial matchup against the Pirates, ECU has bounced back to claim five of the last six contests.

McNeill Against O'Leary
Despite a combined 56-plus years coaching at the collegiate level, East Carolina's Ruffin McNeill and UCF's George O'Leary have faced each other on the sidelines only twice - the aforementioned `10 and `11 battles ... While the 2012 campaign marks McNeill's 27th and O'Leary's 29th year overall in college football, respectively, the pair also share 15 seasons as a defensive coordinator (nine for McNeill - 4/Appalachian State, 2/UNLV, 3/Texas Tech; six for O'Leary - all at Georgia Tech).

Last Meeting In Orlando - Central Florida 49 - East Carolina 35
Tailback Ronnie Weaver rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns to lead a productive UCF ground attack that helped the Knights record a 49-35 Conference USA victory over East Carolina and establish a firm command of the league's divisional race on Oct. 30, 2010 ... The Pirates surrendered then season-highs in rushing yards (265) and ground scores (five), while allowing the Knights to tally touchdowns on seven of 10 possessions ... UCF jumped out to a 28-14 halftime lead, scoring on its first four series before a kneel-down prior to intermission halted the run ... Quarterback Dominique Davis tried to carry ECU on his shoulders, accounting for all five of the Pirates' scores with three TD passes and a pair of scoring runs, but came up short despite a 25-of-34, 221-yard and two touchdown passing effort in the second half alone ... In all, Davis finished the day with 310 yards on a 39-of-54 aerial effort ... His counterpart, Jeff Godfrey, was eight-of-12 through the air for 159 yards and two TDs, but also added 43 rushing yards ... ECU pulled to within 28-21 on a Dwayne Harris TD reception to open the third quarter, but the Knights answered by using scoring runs by Weaver and Latavius Murray to extend the lead to 42-21 early in the fourth quarter.

Overall on the Road - 1-2 in 2012
Since joining C-USA in 1997, East Carolina is 42-60 (.412) when playing away from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium ... The Pirates have dropped two of three road games in 2012, falling at then-No. 9 South Carolina on Sept. 8 before capturing a league victory at Southern Miss on Sept. 15 and dropping an in-state clash at North Carolina on Sept. 22 ... 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, the Pirates were 3-4 in 2009 and 5-4 in 2008.

Against Conference-USA Opponents
Since playing its first season in Conference USA (1997), East Carolina has produced an all-time 67-47 (.588) league record ... Overall, the Pirates have won 16 of the last 23, 20 of the last 28 and 25 of the last 35 C-USA games, but in road league contests, ECU has lost four of the last six.

Battling Within the East Division
The Pirates are 26-10 (.722) against Conference USA East Division opponents since the league implemented divisional play in 2005 ... ECU is 14-4 at home and 12-6 on the road in games against Marshall, Memphis, Southern Miss, UAB and UCF ... Before booking a triumph over USM to open league play in 2012, the Pirates were 3-2 in 2011 (wins over UAB, MEM and UCF, losses vs. USM and MAR), 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.

Halfway Finished By Oct. 4?
With its 28-18 win over UTEP last Saturday, East Carolina completed its unusual five-game month of September schedule ... 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).

Last Time Out
Junior Vintavious Cooper rushed for a career-high 151 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore Shane Carden accounted for the other three scores to lead East Carolina to 28-18 Conference USA triumph over UTEP ... Cooper, who averaged 6.6 yards on his 23 carries and racked up 203 all-purpose yards, secured the Pirates' second-straight league win with a 24-yard scamper with 4:54 remaining in the contest ... Carden overcame a three-interception outing by completing 28-of-40 passes for 258 yards and a TD, while also turning in a career-best 63-yard rushing performance and ground scores in the first and third quarters ... Defensively, junior strong safety Chip Thompson thwarted any Miner comeback efforts by picking off a pair of Nick Lamaison throws in the fourth quarter and tallying a personal-best eight tackles ... Sophomore Justin Hardy, on the receiving end of Carden's only touchdown toss, led all pass catchers with 11 grabs for 95 yards ... After accumulating 309 first-half yards to build a narrow 14-10 lead at intermission, the Pirates benefitted from a strong defensive showing in the final 30 minutes to preserve the victory ... ECU limited the Miners to just 137 total second-half yards and forced four turnovers to keep the UTEP offense off the scoreboard ... The Pirates erased an early 10-7 deficit and emerged from an 80-minute lightning delay late in the second quarter with 21-straight points to help build a 28-10 cushion.

Starting Over On Offense
ECU returned only 45.7% of its scoring and less than 30% (28.8) of its total offense yardage it accumulated a year ago ... The aforementioned loss of QB Dominique Davis translated into a 94% loss of the unit's passing numbers ... Newcomers have accounted for nearly 65 percent of the Pirates' rushing yardage so far this season as Vintavious Cooper (304), Hunter Furr (43) and Shane Carden (40) have picked up 387 of ECU's 601 ground yards.

Restoration of 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 generated only a combined 461 total yards in its next two contests (228/Southern Miss, 233/North Carolina) before racking up a season-high 475 (217 rush/258 pass) against UTEP last Saturday ... In fact, the 217 ground yards were a Ruffin McNeill era-best and the most recorded by the Pirates since amassing 242 against Tulsa on Nov. 15, 2009.

Keying On One For Now
Although East Carolina has surrendered 280.4 passing and 404.6 total yards per game against ASU, SC, USM, UNC and UTEP in its first five contests of the 2012 season, its rush defense average of 124.2 ypg currently stands second in C-USA, 40th nationally and ranks among the program's all-time top 10 list.

Slowing The Run...Part II
After limiting Marcus Lattimore's (13-40) South Carolina rushing attack to 131 yards on Sept. 8, then surrendering just 91 yards to Southern Miss and only 129 to Giovani Bernard's (18-50) Tar Heel ground game Sept. 22, ECU has held opponents to less than 135 ground yards in six of its last seven contests dating back to the 2011 campaign (115/UCF, 104/Marshall in `11) ... The Pirates still haven't allowed a run over 24 yards in 2012.

Slow Starters
Although they snapped a four-game scoreless first quarter skid with touchdown against UTEP, the Pirates remain on the short end of a 42-7 ledger after the first 15 minutes of play ... From a "getting an early lead" perspective, East Carolina hasn't scored first in its last seven games (at UTEP last Nov. 12).

ECU-UCF = Not Many Yellow Hankies
After the first five contests, the Pirates are the "fifth-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 following with a combined 12 against UNC (5) and UTEP (7) ... The Golden Knights have also kept away from the yellow flags and have only been penalized 14 times for 125 yards in the team's four games to rank third nationally.

A Pirate's Way of Life
The Pirates have forced a turnover in 22 of its last 25 games ... In all, East Carolina has created two or more turnovers in eight of the last 12 games, which includes three each against Appalachian State and Southern Miss, and a season-high four vs. UTEP this year ... ECU has won 12 of 17 games (12-5) when it forces two or more turnovers in the Ruffin McNeill era, but are just 2-11 in contests when it doesn't.

No Rest For The Weary
For the third time in the last four years (12th overall time in program history), East Carolina will play a game with five or less days of preparation time when it meets UCF Thursday ... The Pirates are 4-5-2 overall, but captured their last short "turn-around" contest - downing UAB 54-42 at Legion Field on Nov. 11, 2010 after surrendering a 76-35 setback to Navy on Nov. 6 ... ECU will have another opportunity to enjoy a short preparation week later this season when it hosts Marshall on Friday, Nov. 23 after meeting Tulane on Nov. 17.

A Thursday Night Special
Although they have split their last six, the Pirates have posted an all-time record of 4-7 when playing on Thursday - last experiencing action in 2010 (at UAB) ... Of the 11 Thursday games, ECU has played four on the road and are 3-1 ... This is the sixth Thursday contest that the Pirates have had since the start of the 2000 season.

Non-Saturday Mayhem
East Carolina is 13-17 in non-Saturday games in the last 15-plus years, when it became a regular "alternative" to the game's scheduling staple ... Oddly, the Pirates have fared better on the road - compiling a 10-7 record compared to a 3-10 slate in Greenville ... In terms of days (including bowls), East Carolina is 4-0 on Sundays, 0-1 on Mondays, 2-1 on Tuesdays, 0-3 on Wednesdays, 4-7 on Thursdays and 3-5 on Fridays ... Since 2005, the Pirates have defeated Boise State (bowl/ Sunday/'07), UCF (Sunday/'08), UTEP (Friday/'08), Memphis (Tuesday/'09), Tulsa (Sunday/ in `09 & `10) and UAB (Thursday/'10), while losing to Kentucky (bowl/Friday/'08), Virginia Tech (Thursday/'09), SMU (Friday/'10) and Maryland (bowl/Wednesday/'10).

Thompson Takes Home Honors
Junior safety Chip Thompson picked up four awards this last week for his two interception and eight tackle performance against UTEP including being honor as the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week on Monday, Oct. 1 ... Thompson was also recognized as the C-USA Defensive Back of the Week and an honorable mention selection to the College Football Performance Awards for the fifth week of the season on Sunday ... The Jackson, Miss. native completed his week and was selected by the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America)/Bronco Nagurski as the National Defensive Player of the Week on Tuesday, Oct. 2 ... Thompson will be added to the 2012 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List with his selection for the weekly award.

Conference / National Individual Rankings
Inside receiver Justin Hardy ranks second in the conference in punt return average (9.50) and receptions per game (6.80), sixth in receiving yards a contest (72.20), tied for 16th in scoring (4.80) and 17th in all-purpose yards (83.60) ... Safety Chip Thompson is tied for fourth in the conference in interceptions (.40) ... Punter Trent Tignor ranks sixth in the league and 53rd in the country in punting (41.78) ... Kicker Warren Harvey currently is placed tied for seventh in field goals per game (0.80) ... Kick returner Lance Ray is eighth in kickoff returns with his average of 22.6 yards per attempt ... Junior running back Vintavious Cooper is 10th in the conference in rushing (60.80),  Linebacker Montese Overton finds himself tied for 13th in Conference USA is tackles for loss per game (0.88) ... Quarterback Shane Carden is 10th (113.14) in the league in passing efficiency and total offense (146.60)

Conference USA Team Rankings
The Pirates enter this week as the second stingiest rush defense in the conference (124.4 yds. per game) ... The team is also placed second in scoring defense (24.00) and red zone defense (70.6) and third in total defense (404.60) ... ECU is sacks of all league members (2.00) and the seventh-most tackles for loss (5.40).