East Carolina Hosts Houston

Adhem Elsawi

Nov. 1, 2012

East Carolina Game 10: Houston
Date Saturday, Nov. 3
Time Noon (ET)
Location Greenville, N.C. (Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium)
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Live Game Coverage Radio: WNCT 107.9FM and ECU All-Access Listen Live
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GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina will close a two-game homestand and resume Conference USA play when it hosts the Houston Cougars for a 12 noon regionally-televised matchup on Saturday, Nov. 3, at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The Pirates, who are just one victory away from becoming bowl eligible for the sixth time in the last seven seasons, will also try to extend a two-game winning-streak against league opponents. ECU, which is 5-4 at the nine-game mark for the fifth time in the last seven years, will play the second of three inter-divisional contests on its 2012 schedule when it meets UH.

East Carolina Records and Streaks

  • Eleven bowl appearances since 1990; seven since 2000 (five of the last six years) ...
  • Has won seven-straight games (and 35 of 40) when scoring 30 or more points ...
  • Has lost 11-straight games (14 of 15) when scoring 20 or less points ...
  • Has won 12 of 13 games when forcing three or more turnovers ...
  • Has won 19 of the last 20 games when converting third downs at 50% or higher ...
  • Has lost 13-straight games when surrendering 200 or more rushing yards ...
  • Has won 18 of the last 26 (and 22 of 31) Conference USA games ...
  • Has won 15 of the last 17 (and 20 of 24) C-USA home games ...
  • Has won 10 of the last 16 games against C-USA West Division members ...
  • Has won seven of the last nine home games against C-USA West Division members ...

The Last Meeting
East Carolina3
October 8, 2011
Houston, Texas
Pirates Downed In Houston, 56-3
East Carolina gave up two quick touchdowns to Houston Saturday night and could not recover as the Cougars cruised to a 56-3 Conference USA victory at Robertson Stadium.

The Pirates Against the Cougars
East Carolina leads 6-5 ... Oddly, the Pirates have captured four of six meetings in Houston, but have dropped three of five matchups played at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium ... The last meeting in Greenville between the teams was a 38-32 ECU victory in the 2009 C-USA Championship Game.

Ruffin McNeill Against Houston
Ruffin McNeill has faced Houston as a coach only twice (0-2) prior to Saturday's game ... In addition to last year's Cougar rout at Robertson Stadium while heading the ECU program, McNeill and his Texas Tech Red Raiders dropped a 29-28 non-conference decision at UH on Sept. 26, 2009.

Tony Levine Against the Pirates
Tony Levine has been on the winning sideline in three of four all-time meetings against ECU, taking two of three with Houston after helping Louisville to a victory in 2004 while on the Cardinals' coaching staff ... His fingerprints are on two of the Pirates' worst 10 defeats in program history after racking up 56-3 (-53) and 59-7 (-52) wins for UH (2011) and UofL (2004), respectively.

Last Meeting In Greenville - East Carolina 38 - Houston 32
Senior Van Eskridge's pair of fourth-quarter interceptions, including a game-saver in the Pirate endzone with only 42 seconds remaining, helped East Carolina stave off a Houston comeback attempt and capture its second Conference USA championship in as many tries ... The Pirates survived a 56-of-75, 527-yard, five-touchdown passing effort by Cougar quarterback Case Keenum by picking off three throws, two in their own endzone ... On the other side of the ball, ECU used 262 air yards from Patrick Pinkney and a 151-yard team rushing day, which included a pair of ground scores each from Dominique Lindsay and Giavanni Ruffin ... In all, the Pirates forced four turnovers and cashed the first three miscues into 17 points ... Eskridge added a 30-yard return on his first interception to the UH seven-yard line to set up a Lindsay scoring run that pushed the ECU lead to 31-19 with 13:27 to play ... After stuffing the Pirates on a fourth-down try inside UH territory with 1:47 remaining, Keenum rallied Houston down to the ECU 34 before Eskridge's heroics.

C-USA Title Memories For Only Five
Five current East Carolina players experienced action against Houston in the 2009 C-USA Championship Game, thus representing the only Pirates with multi-game histories vs. the Cougars.

Against the Lone Star State
The Pirates have won 17 of 28 all-time matchups (17-11) against FBS programs from the state of Texas ... ECU is 6-5 against UH, 3-1 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 only 1-4 against Texas-based FBS institutions as East Carolina's head coach (a 28-18 win against UTEP earlier this season was his first), Ruffin McNeill has recorded an all-time record of 37-20 (.649) 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 (4-1), Rice (3-2), North Texas (2-0) and Houston (0-2).

Playing The Wild West
East Carolina owns a 13-9 mark (8-3/home, 5-6/road) against the "other side" since the league began divisional play in 2005 - sweeping Tulane (three meetings), taking three of four 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 28-11 overall mark against foes in its own East Division.

League Statistical Comparison
In its five C-USA contests this year, East Carolina has averaged 31.0 points, 122.6 rushing yards, 284.2 passing yards and 406.8 total yards per game so far ... By comparison, the Pirates booked 19.8 ppg, 117.8 rypg, 223.2 pypg and 341.0 ypg averages in their four NC tilts.

Last Time Out - Navy 56 - East Carolina 28
Navy's triple-option offensive attack generated 512 rushing yards and helped the Midshipmen score on eight of 11 possessions during a 56-28 non-conference triumph over East Carolina ... The ground total was the second-highest ever recorded at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, trailing only a 521-yard performance during Navy's 76-35 rout in 2010 ... Of the three non-successful drives, two were kneel-downs to close the first and second halves, while the other was an interception by the Pirates' Chip Thompson in the ECU end zone to thwart another scoring threat ... After spotting the Mids an early 14-0 lead, East Carolina evened the contest in the second quarter on a nine-yard Justin Hardy touchdown catch and Reggie Bullock's two-yard scoring run ... Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds personally answered with 28-straight tallies, reaching paydirt on three short-yardage keepers and connecting with Casey Bolena on a 15-yard strike to push the lead to 42-14 late in the third period ... Twelve Midshipmen ball-carriers collectively averaged 7.4 yards per rush attempt.

At Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium - 3-1 in 2012
East Carolina's all-time record at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is 165-85-1 (.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.

The Pirate Nation - 7 Million Strong
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 7,011,319 fans have seen the Pirates in action since 1963, and in the last four-plus years, ECU has averaged 46,510 (1,209,256/26 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 have opened the 2012 campaign by welcoming 49,023 to the Appalachian State game, 47,817 to the UTEP clash, 45,137 to the Memphis contest and 48,327 to the Navy battle.

Analyzing the 2012 Starters By Class
The list of starters for ECU's first seven games include three freshmen (CB Josh Hawkins, OLB Montese Overton, NT Terrell Stanley), nine sophomores (SS Desi Brown, QB Shane Carden, OLB Maurice Falls, ILB Jeremy Grove, IWR Justin Hardy, C Taylor Hudson, DE Chrishon Rose, IWR Danny Webster, NT Terry Williams), 17 juniors (CB Adonis Armstrong, RB Vintavious Cooper, OG Jordan Davis, RB Michael Dobson, OT Adhem Elsawi, OLB Derrell Johnson, QB Rio Johnson, DE John Lattimore, FS Damon Magazu, FB/IWR Zico Pasut, NT Lee Pegues, OWR Lance Ray, OG Will Simmons, SS Chip Thompson, ILB Kyle Tudor, OWR Reese Wiggins, OLB Gabriel Woullard) and eight seniors (OWR Andrew Bodenheimer, RB Reggie Bullock, NT Michael Brooks, C Josh Clark, ILB Daniel Drake, IWR Derrick Harris, CB Jacobi Jenkins, OT Robert Jones).

Already A Popular Target
Sophomore IWR Justin Hardy ranks among the top five active career leaders in receptions per game ... He has already surpassed the 100-yard mark four times in 2012 and logged three career double-digit catch games.

Cooper A Committee Of One
Junior RB Vintavious Cooper has led East Carolina in rushing the last eight contests, and in the last five games (UTEP, UCF, Memphis, UAB, Navy), has averaged 119.6 ground yards per outing ... He followed a 151-yard performance with 96 and 58 yards vs. the Tigers and Knights, respectively, before booking career highs in carries (26) and yards (172) against the Blazers - the highest rushing total by a Pirate since 2009 (172 by Dominique Lindsay vs. Memphis) - and adding 121 against Navy last week ... Cooper (751 yards) currently accounts for nearly 70 percent (69.3) of the Pirates' overall rushing yardage in 2012.

Back-to-Back Triples
Cooper's back-to-back triple-digit rushing efforts (UAB/Navy) were the first by a Pirate since Chris Johnson tallied 155 and 223 against Tulane and Boise State, respectively, to close out the 2007 campaign ... Marvin Townes was the last ECU back to record three-straight 100-yard rushing contests - picking up 118 (UH), 100 (UNC) and 184 (Army) consecutively in 2003.

Finding A New (Offensive) Gear
After generating only a combined 461 total yards (230.5 ypg) against Southern Miss (228) and North Carolina (233), East Carolina appears to have found its offensive throttle in its last five games ... The Pirates have racked up a collective 2,144 vs. UTEP (475), UCF (362), Memphis (369), UAB (season-high 600) and Navy (338) - an average of 428.8 yards per contest ... In fact, the 217 rushing yards against the Miners was a Ruffin McNeill era best, while the 600 total yards gained at UAB ranked as the eighth-best performance in program history ( fourth-highest ever logged on the road).

Rolling The Dice Well
The Pirates rank among the nation's top five in fourth down conversion percentage this season, successfully handling six-of-seven attempts (85.7 percent) so far ... ECU has been perfect in four contests during the 2012 campaign - 2-2 vs. Navy; 1-1 vs. South Carolina, North Carolina and UAB; and were 1-2 against UCF.

Cashing In Redzone Visits
ECU has cashed in 13-straight redzone visits, beginning with its last three against Memphis and a 10-of-10 ledger vs. UAB (6-6) and Navy (4-4).

An Encore For Grove?
Sophomore ILB Jeremy Grove, who earned inclusion on four Freshman All-America squads in 2011 after booking a rookie school-record 122 stops, currently ranks third nationally among all active career defenders in tackles per game ... He's tallied nine hits in five of nine games this season.

To Pillage And Plunder
The Pirates have recorded a takeaway in 25 of its last 29 games ... In all, East Carolina has created two or more turnovers in nine of the last 16 games, which includes two against Memphis, three each vs. Appalachian State and Southern Miss, and a season-high four vs. UTEP this year ... ECU has won 13 of 18 games (13-5) when it forces two or more turnovers in the Ruffin McNeill era, but are just 3-13 in contests when it doesn't ... The Pirates currently rank 18th nationally in fumbles recovered with nine - the seventh-highest total among all FBS programs - and are only one of 11 teams who have returned at least two for TDs (vs. ASU, USM).

Conference / National Individual Rankings
Inside receiver Justin Hardy ranks second in the conference in receiving yards per game (86.67) and punt return average (9.00), fifth in receptions per contest (6.33), ninth in all-purpose yards (98.67) and tied for 13th in scoring (6.00) ... He is also among the NCAA leaders and is placed tied for 25th in receiving yards a contests and tied for 32nd in receptions per game ... Running back Vintavious Cooper ranks fourth in the conference in rushing (83.44), seventh in all-purpose yards (101.67) and 15th in total offense (83.44) ... Quarterback Shane Carden is third in passing efficiency (139.29) and seventh in total offense (209.11) ...  Punter Trent Tignor ranks sixth in the conference and 32nd in the country in punting (42.36) ... Safety Chip Thompson is tied for fifth in the league in interceptions a game (0.33) ... Kicker Warren Harvey currently is placed sixth in Conference USA in field goals per game (1.11) and 11th in scoring (6.44) ... Kick returner Lance Ray is seventh in kickoff returns with his average of 22.31 per game ... Linebacker Gabriel Woullard is tied for 19th in sacks (.28).

Conference USA Team Rankings
The Pirates enter this week ranking fourth in total defense (411.56), scoring defense (28.67) and rush defense (166.33) ... The team is fifth in passing offense (257.11) and turnover margin (-.22) ... ECU is also among the top half of the conference in pass defense (245.22 - sixth) and sacks allowed (2.44 - sixth).