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ECU Returns To C-USA Play At Middle Tennessee

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Oct. 3, 2013

East Carolina Game 5: Middle Tennessee
Date Saturday, Oct. 5
Time 3:30 P.M. (ET)
Location Murfreesboro, Tenn.(Johnny "Red" Floyd Stadium)
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GREENVILLE, N.C. - After facing back-to-back Atlantic Coast Conference opponents, East Carolina will return to Conference USA play this week when it travels to Middle Tennessee to battle the Blue Raiders at Johnny "Red" Floyd Stadium in a 3:30 p.m. (ET) matchup Saturday.

The meeting against MTSU will represent the second contest of a three-game road swing for the Pirates, who will face Tulane (Oct. 12) before returning home to host long-time rival Southern Miss on Oct. 19. ECU will be looking to post its best season-opening five-game mark since 1999 (5-0) during its first-ever meeting with the Blue Raiders.

East Carolina Records and Streaks

  • Eight bowl appearances since 2000 (six of the last seven years) ...
  • Has won 12 of the last 13 games (and 40 of 46) when scoring 30 or more points ...
  • Has lost 12-straight games when scoring 20 or less points ...
  • Has won 22 of the last 23 games when converting third downs at 50% or higher ...
  • Has won seven of the last eight games when forcing two or more turnovers ...
  • Has won six-straight (and 22 of the last 30) Conference USA games ...
  • Has won three of the last four C-USA road games ...
  • Has won four-straight (and 18 of the last 22) C-USA East Division games ...
  • Has won 12 of its last 17 C-USA East Division road games ...

The Series
Saturday's contest will mark the first meeting (0-0) between East Carolina and Middle Tennessee in the sport of football ... The Pirates and Blue Raiders have squared off in men's basketball (2-2/last meeting in `02) and softball (3-3/`09), but have also never faced each other in baseball, women's basketball and women's soccer.

Many (Similar) Roads Traveled
Ruffin McNeill and Rick Stockstill have a combined 57-plus years of coaching experience on the college level and share a pair similar stops during their successful careers ... McNeill's first collegiate position was as a graduate assistant at Clemson (1985-86), a place where Stockstill spent 14 seasons in various roles on the offensive side of the ball ... Ironically, both also were one-year assistants at East Carolina during rare losing seasons - McNeill as defensive line coach in 1992 under Steve Logan and Stockstill as offensive coordinator in 2003 under John Thompson.

Battling Within The East Division
The Pirates are 30-11 (.732) against Conference USA East Division opponents since the league implemented divisional play in 2005 ... ECU is 17-4 at home and 13-7 on the road in games against Marshall, Southern Miss, UAB and Florida Atlantic (and current AAC members UCF and Memphis) ... Before taking four of five (win at USM, loss at UCF, wins vs. MEM, UAB and MAR) in 2012, the Pirates were 3-2 in 2011, 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 ... In all, East Carolina will enter the Middle Tennessee clash having won four straight and 18 of its last 22 games against East Division members.

On The Road - 1-0 In 2013
Since joining C-USA in 1997, East Carolina is 45-62 (.421) when playing away from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium ... Before defeating North Carolina last week to open their 2013 road schedule, the Pirates were 3-4 in 2012 with wins against Southern Miss, UAB and Tulane and losses vs. South Carolina, UNC, UCF and UL-Lafayette (New Orleans Bowl) ... In 2011, ECU fell in four of six (2-4) road contests and were 2-5 in 2010, 3-4 in 2009 and 5-4 in 2008 ... The Pirates will try to move their road record to 2-0 for the first time since 2008 when they meet MTSU Saturday.

Shutout-Free ... 197 And Counting
ECU will enter the Middle Tennessee contest with an active streak of 197 games of not suffering a shutout - a new school record (17 points at Rice in `06 surpassed the previous mark of 110 set from 1971 to 1981) ... The last time the Pirates were blanked was on Oct. 4, 1997 (56-0 at Syracuse) ... In terms of a national standing, East Carolina's 197-game run currently ranks ninth (see below) among all active FBS streaks and is the 20th-longest in the all-time annals.

Redshirt Removals
By experiencing action at North Carolina Saturday, true freshman inside receiver Jimmy Williams and nose tackle Demetri McGill joined classmates Davon Grayson (OR), Isaiah Jones (IR) and Devaris Brunson (ILB) on head coach Ruffin McNeill's "play immediately" count this year ... The list now includes a total of 12 since his arrival at ECU in 2010 ... A closer look: 2010 (4) - DE Derrell Johnson, DB Damon Magazu, DE Lee Pegues, H Trent Tignor; 2011 (2) - IR Danny Webster, ILB Brandon Williams; 2012 (1) - OR Jabril Soloman; 2013 (5) - ILB Devaris Brunson, OR Davon Grayson, IR Isaiah Jones, NT Demetri McGill, IR Jimmy Williams.

Ruffin McNeill's Offensive M.O.
Although the unit featured only three senior starters, East Carolina's offense passed for 3,551 yards in 2012 - the second-highest total in program history ... Coach McNeill's first squad set the standard in 2010 with 4,143 air yards before his second edition followed with 3,433 yards in 2011, thus giving him the top three single-season passing seasons in the Pirate record books ... ECU is on pace for a 3,549-yard campaign in 2013 so far after recording 1,183 air yards (295.8 ypg) in contests vs. Old Dominion (447), Florida Atlantic (202), Virginia Tech (158) and North Carolina (376).

Redzone Run Back On Track
ECU had its run of consecutive redzone conversions halted at 47 (41 TDs, 6 FGs) straight by Florida Atlantic on Sept. 5 ... After scoring on its first five trips inside the 20, the Pirates lost a fumble at the Owl 11-yard line to end a streak that began vs. Memphis on Oct. 13, 2012 ... ECU is currently 19-of-20 in 2013 (95.0%) after a 50-of-54 clip (92.6%) a year ago, which stood third among all FBS programs ... The Pirates failed to penetrate the 20-yard line (0-of-0 in the redzone) against Virginia Tech on Sept. 14 - a first for East Carolina since the 2003 season opener - but bounced back to cash in all eight visits against North Carolina last week (six TDs, two FGs).

To Plunder And Pillage
The Pirates have recorded a takeaway in 32 of its last 37 games ... Additionally, East Carolina has created two or more turnovers in 13 of the last 24 games ... After collecting one in the 2013 opener vs. Old Dominion, ECU nabbed three vs. FAU and followed with one each vs. Virginia Tech and North Carolina ... ECU has won 16 of 22 games when it forces two or more turnovers in the Ruffin McNeill era, but are just 6-14 in contests when it doesn't ... "PICK" HIT: of ECU's last 21 interceptions (2011-2013), only five (5) have come on the road (1/UNC in `13).

Damage Control - A Good 0-For-6
East Carolina has done a good job minimizing damage after turnovers so far this season, keeping opponents scoreless in six opportunities ... The Pirates have forced three punts, a pair of missed field goal attempts and stalled another drive (downs) after handing out freebies against Florida Atlantic (2), Virginia Tech (3) and North Carolina (1).

Turning The Tide ... Defensively
The arrival of new defensive coordinator Rick Smith appears to have made an early impact on that side of the ball for the Pirates ... East Carolina stands among C-USA's top four units in three major categories after just four games, including a top rank in rush defense ... In fact, ECU has surrendered only a combined 314 ground yards so far this year - the fewest allowed in the same season-opening span in the modern era (since 1965).

Stopping The Run, Part II
After surrendering a combined 185.3 rushing yards per game over the last three campaigns, the Pirates seemingly have addressed the matter by allowing less than 100 ground yards in three of their first four contests this year (90 vs. ODU, 53 vs. VT and 67 vs. UNC) ... In addition, East Carolina has yet to give up a single run over 15 yards in 123 total carries this season.

Notebooking Shane Carden
Although initially passed over for the starting position to open the 2012 season, junior Shane Carden took over the job prior to ECU's third game and responded with 3,116 aerial yards - the Pirates' third-highest single-season passing total in school history:

  • Has accounted for 45 of ECU's 63 offensive TDs as the Pirates' starter (1-1/SC, 2-2/USM, 3-4/UTEP, 2-2/UCF, 5-5/MEM, 2-5/UAB, 1-4/NAVY, 4-5/UH, 3-4/TLN, 6-9/MAR, 2-4/ULL, 5-6/ODU, 2-4/FAU, 1-1/VT, 6-7/UNC) ...
  • Has converted 66-of-70 redzone opportunities while under center ...
  • Established an ECU single-game record with 447 passing yards and 46 completions vs. Old Dominion on Aug. 31 and logged the program's second-highest completion percentage (85.2) in a career-high 54 attempts ... Was 29-of-35 for 266 yards in first-half action vs. the Monarchs (15-of-17, 139 yards in the first quarter after starting the contest nine-of-nine) ...
  • The 447 yards currently ranks as the seventh-highest single-game passing total at the FBS level this season, while his 46 completions stands second nationally behind Fresno State's Derek Carr (52 vs. Rutgers) ...
  • Earned his fourth career C-USA Offensive Player-of-the Week honor for his efforts, which also included five TD throws, against ODU ...
  • Directly responsible for six TDs at North Carolina (3 pass, career high-matching 3 rush) and was 32-of-47 for 376 yards through the air ...
  • Currently ranks among FBS active career leaders in completions per game (9th/21.5), passing attempts per game (15th/31.7), pass efficiency rating (19th/145.86) and total offense per game (21st/243.7) ...
  • Led all ECU ball-carriers with eight ground TDs in 2012 ...
  • Threw for a then-record 439 yards vs. Marshall during the 2012 regular season finale (38-of-47) ...
  • Has matched a single-game school record with five TD passes on two occasions - vs. Memphis (2012) and Old Dominion (2013) ...
  • Posted career-bests in rushing yards (63) vs. UTEP and ground TDs (3) vs. Marshall ...
  • Made first collegiate start at Southern Miss and rallied Pirates to a C-USA win with a strong second half performance (7-of-10, 93 yards) ...
  • Came off the bench to open the second half and directed East Carolina's only two scoring drives against then-No. 9 South Carolina (FG, TD) ...
  • After getting intercepted on first collegiate pass vs. Gamecocks, bounced back to hit 12-of-17 throws, including first career completion - a 14-yarder ...

Tay Cooper - Option I
Senior Vintavious Cooper, who is East Carolina's first returning 1,000-yard rusher since 2004, made good progress on a repeat performance with a career-high 186-yard effort (on a personal-best 35 carries) at North Carolina last week ...The century-mark outing was Cooper's first of the season and fifth of his career (151/UTEP, 172/UAB, 121/Navy, 140/UH in 2012) after being held to 28 yards on only eight attempts against Virginia Tech on Sept. 14 ... In addition to his yardage total against the Tar Heels, which ranked as the 16th-highest single-game effort in ECU history, Cooper was responsible for 16 of the Pirates' 36 first downs during the afternoon ... East Carolina is 4-1 when Cooper runs for 100 or more yards in a game.

Cooper - Option II
Vintavious Cooper has also been a viable pass-catching weapon out of the backfield in 2013, grabbing 20 balls for 185 yards thus far ... Admittedly early, he is on pace to set new program standards in receptions and reception yards by a running back with 60 (52/Jon Williams/2010) and 555 (528/Chris Johnson/2007), respectively ... His active "involvement" against the Tar Heels certainly played a significant role in the Pirates' victory.

Delivering Some Heat
The Pirates have netted 13 sacks (-80 yards) in their first four games - the highest total (in a similar time span) during the Ruffin McNeill era dating back to 2010 ... DEs Lee Peques and Terrell Stanley headline a list of nine defenders who have recorded at least a half of a quarterback drop this season ... Pegues and Stanley have each tallied a unit-high three sacks and both stand 29th nationally ... On a related note, ECU has also been credited with 11 quarterback hurries in four games.