ECU Heads South To Face FIU In C-USA Action

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UABSPORTS.COM

Oct. 31, 2013

East Carolina Game 8: FIU
Date Saturday, Nov. 2
Time 6:00 PM (EDT)
Location Miami, Fla. (Alfonso Field at FIU Stadium)
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GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina will open a pivotal three-game stretch of its Conference USA schedule and attempt to reach bowl eligible status for the seventh time in the last eight years when it travels to Miami Saturday for a 6 p.m. matchup against FIU.

The Pirates, who enjoyed their second and final bye week of the 2013 campaign after defeating Southern Miss 55-14 on Oct. 19, will try to extend their divisional win streak to seven straight when they meet the Panthers on the road. Lastly, ECU will also be looking to post its best "season-opening" eight-game mark since 1999 (7-1) during its first-ever battle against FIU.

East Carolina Records and Streaks

  • Eight bowl appearances since 2000 (six of the last seven years) ...
  • Has won 13 of the last 15 games (and 41 of 48) when scoring 30 or more points ...
  • Has lost 12-straight games when scoring 20 or less points ...
  • Has won 24 of the last 25 games when converting third downs at 50% or higher ...
  • Has won nine of the last 10 games when forcing two or more turnovers ...
  • Has won eight of the last nine (and 24 of the last 33) Conference USA games ...
  • Has won four of the last six C-USA road games ...
  • Has won six-straight (and 20 of the last 24) C-USA East Division games ...
  • Has won 13 of its last 18 C-USA East Division road games ...

The Series
Saturday's contest will mark the first meeting (0-0) between East Carolina and FIU in the sport of football ... The Pirates and Panthers have squared off in women's soccer (ECU leads series 2-0/last meeting on Oct. 18, 2013), softball (2-0/'00), women's basketball (1-0/'08) and volleyball (1-0/Oct. 25, 2013), but have also never faced each other on the baseball diamond or (men's) basketball court.

FIU Familiar Faces
Two (related) members of FIU's offensive coaching staff have deep ties to East Carolina, not to mention plenty of association with the Pirates' success over the years ... Panthers offensive line coach and run-game coordinator Steve Shankweiler served three separate five-year tenures at ECU (1987-91, 1998-02, 2005-09) and helped the Pirates to a combined eight bowl games and a pair of conference titles ... Son Kort Shankweiler, who is FIU's tight ends and tackles coach, earned four letters as a fullback, quarterback and special teams stalwart from 2003 to 2006 - leading ECU to its first bowl in five years as a senior (which started a run of five straight).

Battling Within The East Division - 3-0 In 2013
The Pirates are 32-11 (.744) against Conference USA East Division opponents since the league implemented divisional play in 2005 ... ECU is 18-4 at home and 14-7 on the road in games against Marshall, Southern Miss, UAB, Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee (and current AAC members UCF and Memphis) ... Before taking four of fi ve (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 FIU clash having won six straight and 20 of its last 24 games against East Division members.

On The Road - 2-1 In 2013
Since joining C-USA in 1997, East Carolina is 46-63 (.422) when playing away from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium ... Before defeating North Carolina and Middle Tennessee, and falling at Tulane 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 3-1 when they meet FIU in Miami on Saturday, which would represent the program's best "away start" since a perfect 4-0 slate in 1999.

Topping All C-USA And Non-AQ BCS Fans
After leading Conference USA in average attendance for the fifth consecutive season and standing first in non-AQ BCS conference member turnstile counts (does not include independents Notre Dame/80,795 and BYU/60,265) for the second-straight year in 2012, East Carolina has opened the 2013 campaign where it left off a year ago ... Overall (123 programs), ECU currently ranks 53rd nationally in average attendance and 57th in capacity percentage (88.62).

Feeling Refreshed Or Shaking Off The Rust?
Although they currently enjoy a run of three-straight wins, the Pirates haven't taken full advantage of open weeks when looking at a broader 10-year perspective - only splitting their last 12 (6-6) contests following an off "day" since 2004 ... A closer look: 2004 (L/CIN, L/USM), 2005 (L/WFU, L/TLS), 2006 (W/UVA), 2007 (W/TLN), 2008 (L/UVA, W/UCF), 2009 (no true off-week/ three-straight non-Saturday games), 2010 (L/UNC), 2011 (W/UAB), 2012 (W/TLN) and 2013 (W/UNC) ... Since 1965 (start of the modern era), East Carolina is 26-18 in games after a break ... This year's "double-bye" week also marks the first for ECU since 2008 and the fourth in a 10-year timespan ... With the exception of 2012, the Pirates have suffered a loss each year in a contest that preceded an off week, including this season (falling 15-10 to Virginia Tech Sept. 14).

League, Non-League Statistical Comparisons
In its four C-USA contests this year, East Carolina has averaged 35.8 points, 110.2 rushing yards, 350.2 passing yards and 460.5 total yards per game so far ... By comparison, the Pirates have booked 39.0 ppg, 102.3 rypg, 327.0 pypg and 429.3 ypg averages in their three non-conference tilts ... Defensively, ECU has surrendered 20.9 points, 99.8 rushing yards, 190.0 passing yards and 289.8 total yards in its league contests, while giving up 28.0, 70.0, 342.0 and 412.0 averages against non-Conference USA foes.

Shutout-Free ... 200 And Counting
ECU will enter the FIU game with an active streak of 200 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 200-game run currently ranks ninth (see below) among all active FBS streaks and is the 20th-longest in the all-time annals.

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 ... Ruffin 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 currently on pace for a 4,083-yard campaign in 2013 so far after recording 2,382 air yards (340.3 ypg) through its first seven games.

Living A Pirate's Life
The Pirates have recorded a takeaway in nine-straight (and 24 of the last 27) games ... Additionally, East Carolina has created two or more turnovers in 15 of the last 26 contests ... After collecting one in the 2013 opener vs. Old Dominion, ECU nabbed three vs. FAU, one each vs. Virginia Tech and North Carolina before getting two at Middle Tennessee, one at Tulane and a pair more vs. USM ... ECU has won 18 of 24 games when it forces two or more turnovers in the Ruffin McNeill era (6-15 when it doesn't).

Turning The Tide ... Defensively
The arrival of new defensive coordinator Rick Smith has made a visible 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 seven games, including a top rank in rush defense ... In fact, ECU has surrendered only a combined 609 ground yards so far this year - the fewest allowed in the same season-opening span in the modern era (since 1965):

Category/Game 2010-12 2013 Improvement
Rushing Defense 185.6 87.0 (1st) 98.6
Total Defense 430.0 342.1 (2nd) 87.9
Scoring Defense 36.1 23.4 (4th) 12.7
() denotes C-USA statistical rank

Stopping The Run - Part I
After surrendering the aforementioned combined 185.6 rushing yards per game over the last three campaigns, the Pirates have addressed the matter by allowing less than 100 ground yards in five of their first seven contests this year (90 vs. ODU, 53 vs. VT, 67 vs. UNC, 89 vs. MTSU, 85 vs. TLN) ... In addition, ECU given up only one run over 20 yards in 219 total carries this season and is just one of six FBS programs that has not allowed an opponent 100-yard rusher this year (Memphis, Michigan State, Ohio State, Syracuse and Ohio State are the other five).

Stopping The Run - Part II
A closer look at the top five run-stopping defensive units nationally:

No. School Games Carries Yards TD RYPG
1. Michigan State 8 212 439 4 54.9
2. Louisville 8 242 644 4 80.5
3. East Carolina 7 219 609 *3 87.0
4. Wisconsin 7 219 613 7 87.6
5. Virginia Tech 8 281 728 5 91.0
*tied with Alabama and Ohio State; only Iowa (2) has surrendered fewer rush TDs

Return Game Gains
East Carolina's kickoff return unit has enjoyed success so far during the 2013 season, currently ranking third at the FBS level after the first seven contests ... The Pirates average 28.9 yards per return - the latter sparked by senior Lance Ray's 29.4 ypr clip, which is ninth (9th) nationally this week.

Extending Drives
Of East Carolina's 93 offensive possessions this season, only 18 have been "terminated" in three or less plays (punt, turnover, missed field goal on fourth down) - which currently ranks eighth (for fewest) nationally.

Distribution Accuracy
While the Pirates' spread passing attack might be a little short on big single play numbers with only a long of 48 yards so far this year, its "distribution accuracy" (to 18 different receivers) ranks first nationally.

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 52 of ECU's 76 offensive TDs (68.4 percent) 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, 2-3/MTSU, 1-3/TLN and 4-7/USM ...
  • Has converted 82-of-90 redzone opportunities while under center ...
  • Has established an ECU single-game passing record on three occasions - 439 vs. Marshall in 2012, 447 vs. Old Dominion and 480 vs. Tulane in 2013 ... His effort vs. the Monarchs included a 46-of-54 performance - the program's second-highest completion percentage ever (85.2) ...
  • The 480-yard outing vs. the Green Wave currently ranks as the 11th-highest single-game passing total at the FBS level this season, while his 46 completions vs. ODU stands third nationally behind Washington State's Connor Halliday (58/Oregon) and Fresno State's Derek Carr (52/Rutgers) ...
  • 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 ...
  • Earned his fourth and fifth career Conference USA Offensive Player-of-the-Week honor for his efforts vs. Monarchs and Tar Heels, and earned an ESPN Helmet Sticker for his performance in Chapel Hill ...
  • Threw for 365 yards on a career-high 57 attempts at MTSU, completing 43 - which stands fourth on the FBS single-game list in 2013 ... His 41 completions vs. Tulane ranks seventh on the same list as well ...
  • Currently ranks among FBS active career leaders in completion percentage (2nd/69.7), completions per game (5th/23.9), pass yards per game (9th/259.1), pass attempts per game (10th/34.2), total offense plays per game (10th/40.9) total offense per game (15th/262.7) and pass efficiency rating (22nd/146.97) ...
  • Led all ECU ball-carriers with eight ground TDs in 2012 and already has surpassed half of that total in 2013 with five ...
  • 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 in 2012 (before equaling the latter mark at UNC in `13) ...

A Popular Target
Junior inside receiver Justin Hardy is currently third nationally in receptions per game, hauling in 9.6 passes per contest ... His 10-grab, 126-yard effort against Southern Miss on Oct. 19 marked the seventh double-digit catch and eighth 100-yard receiving yard contests of his career.

Cooper: Backfield Double-Threat
Senior Vintavious Cooper, who is just 487 yards shy of turning in back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing campaigns (a first for an ECU back since Junior Smith did it in 1992-94), has also been a viable pass-catching weapon this fall ... Among RBs, he currently rates sixth nationally with 30 grabs so far.

Turning Six Into Seven
Junior PK Warren Harvey has converted every extra-point attempt since taking over the full-time duties as a sophomore a year ago ... His run of 82-straight PATs currently ranks ninth nationally.