Pirates Make Journey To El Paso For Clash With UTEP

UABSPORTS.COM Freshman Justin Hardy caught his fourth touchdown pass of the season last Saturday against Southern Miss.
Freshman Justin Hardy caught his fourth touchdown pass of the season last Saturday against Southern Miss.

Nov. 9, 2011

East Carolina Game 10: UTEP
Date Saturday, November 12
Time 8:05 p.m. ET
Location El Paso, Texas (Sun Bowl)
Tickets Game Tickets
Live Game Coverage Radio: Pirate IMG Sports Network and ECU All-Access Listen Live
Television: Time Warner El Paso, WITN and ECU All-Access Watch Live
Game Notes East Carolina Get Acrobat Reader | UTEP Get Acrobat Reader
Statistics East Carolina | UTEP
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GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina will close out its 2011 Conference USA interdivisional schedule when it travels to El Paso Saturday for an 8:05 p.m. (ET) matchup against the Miners at the Sun Bowl. The Pirates, who are two victories away from bowl eligibility for the sixth-straight season, will be shooting for their fifth winning ledger in seven years against C-USA West Division opponents after falling to Houston and defeating Tulane last month.

In addition, the clash against the Miners will provide ECU with the opportunity to put together its first three-game road winning streak since 2007 after back-to-back victories at Memphis and Navy.

The Pirates Against The Miners
East Carolina leads the all-time series 2-0. 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. ECU used a 34-yard TD pass with no time remaining to force overtime before recording a 45-42 victory in the opener at the Sun Bowl. During the second matchup, the Pirates scored on their first seven possessions to build a 40-7 lead at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

The Last Meeting
East Carolina
Nov. 28, 2008
Greenville, N.C.
Pirates Roll Past Miners On Senior Day, 53-21
Brandon Simmons ran for three scores and had a touchdown catch to help East Carolina beat UTEP 53-21, giving the Pirates plenty of momentum and confidence heading into next week's league title game.

The Last Meeting
East Carolina 53, UTEP 21 | Nov. 28, 2008 @Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, N.C.
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 ... The Pirates used a career-high four-touchdown and 111-yard rushing effort from senior Brandon Simmons and a personal-best 106-yard receiving day from freshman 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 - twice 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 netted a season-best 475 total yards, did not punt - a first since 1983.



The Last Meeting In El Paso
East Carolina
Oct. 13, 2007
El Paso, Texas
East Carolina Stuns UTEP in Wild Overtime Victory
Rob Kass plunged into the end zone on a quarterback sneak during the first overtime to give East Carolina a wild 45-42 win over UTEP Saturday night. Just a few plays earlier, Kass sent the game to OT with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Juwon Crowell as time ran out to tie the contest at 39-39.

The Last Meeting In El Paso
East Carolina 45, UTEP 42 (OT) | Oct. 13, 2007 @Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas
Quarterback Rob Kass engineered a five-play, 71-yard drive with 34 seconds left and delivered a 34-yard touchdown strike to Juwon Crowell with no time remaining to force overtime before scoring on a one-yard plunge to lift East Carolina to a wild Conference USA road win over UTEP ... The two teams combined for 87 points and 1,096 yards of offense during the game, which also featured four ties and nine lead changes ... It appeared the Miners were in the driver's seat after intercepting a Kass pass at the ECU 42-yard line with 3:21 left and converting the turnover into a 31-yard Marcus Thomas scoring run and a 39-32 lead with just 34 seconds left ... Kass followed by hooking up with Jamar Bryant on a pair of sideline routes before taking a snap with 0:04 left and finding Crowell, who made the grab off his shoe tops in the endzone ... After holding UTEP to a field goal to open overtime, the Pirates used a 15-yard Kass to Davon Drew pass play to set up the game winner ... Chris Johnson ran for 126 yards to lead all ground-gainers ... ECU started slowly on the offensive end, using Van Eskridge's fumble return for a TD and three Ben Hartman field goals for its scoring.



Ruffin McNeill In Texas And Against UTEP
East Carolina's Ruffin McNeill has an all-time record of 65-33 (.663) when coaching in the state of Texas ... Of the 98 overall contests, 93 occurred during his 10-year tenure on the Texas Tech staff (2000-09), with McNeill winning 65 of those matchups ... Ironically, he has never won a game (0-5) in Texas when not wearing red and black - falling to Rice twice, SMU twice and Houston once as an assistant on the UNLV and Fresno State staffs and as head coach at East Carolina (0-2).

McNeill has faced UTEP as a coach three (3-0) times prior to Saturday's game - most recently in 2007 as a member of the Texas Tech staff when the Red Raiders posted a 45-31 win in Lubbock. McNeill and Miners' head coach Mike Price have stood on opposite sidelines on two prior occasions, during the 2007 victory and in a 38-35 overtime triumph in 2006.

A Pirates' Voyage ... Third-Longest Ever
East Carolina's trip to El Paso Saturday ranks as the third-longest overall voyage made by the Pirates in program history and the second-longest for a regular season game ... A closer look:

Opponent City Mileage Last Game (result)
Boise State (Hawai'i Bowl) Honolulu, Hawai'i 4,862 12/23/07 (W, 41-38)
Washington Seattle, Wash. 3,049 09/25/93 (L, 35-0)
UTEP El Paso, Texas 1,905 10/13/07 (W, 45-42)

Excluding Hawai'i (WAC), the trek also rates as the longest among all FBS current conference members (WAC/Louisiana Tech-San Jose State/1,684; Big East/Connecticut-USF/1,284; ACC/Boston College-Miami/1,259; PAC-12/Arizona-Washington/1,220; Sun Belt/FIU-North Texas/1,140 are others covering 1,000 miles or more).

C-USA: Matching 2006 With 3-2 Ledger
ECU slipped to 3-2 in Conference USA play following its loss to Southern Miss, matching the 2006 squad's five-game league record ... By comparison, the Pirates had been 4-1 through five C-USA games the last four seasons.

Everybody Getting A Chance
Twenty-three (23) ECU players have made their initial career starts during the first nine games of the 2011 season ... The numbers surpass last year's figure when a total of 14 made their starting debut at some point throughout the campaign (only eight in 2009) ... So far in 2011, there have been 15 "new" faces on the offensive side of the ball (OWR Mike Price, OWR Reese Wiggins, IWR Danny Webster, LT Jordan Davis, LG Adhem Elsawi, RG Will Simmons, RT Steven Baker, C Hugh Parker, C Josh Clark, RB Reggie Bullock, RB Michael Dobson, RB Torrance Hunt, IWR Justin Hardy, IWR/FB Zico Pasut, IWR Derrick Harris) and eight on defense (DE Lee Pegues, OLB Chris Baker, ILB Daniel Drake, ILB Kyle Tudor, ILB Jeremy Grove, OLB Justin Dixon, OLB Jacob Geary, CB Leonard Paulk).
2011 Offense (first-time starters) ................................................... 15
note - six linemen, nine skill position players
2011 Defense (first-time starters) ..................................................... 8
note - one lineman, six linebackers, one secondary player
The Pirates have used a different starting lineup in all nine games this year.

A New Chapter ... Defensively
East Carolina's move to a 3-4 defensive scheme during the offseason has made a significant statistical impact ... After ranking last (120) among all FBS members a year ago in total defense and 119th in scoring defense, ECU scrapped its 4-3 package before spring drills and installed a 3-4 look which has provided the Pirates more athleticism and versatility, especially out of the linebacking position ... A closer look:

Category 2010/Game (FBS rank) 2011/Game (FBS Rank) Improvement
Rushing Defense 226.7 (117) 181.1 (82) 45.6 ypg
Passing Defense 252.1 (107) 188.8 (21) 63.3 ypg
Total Defense 478.8 (120) 369.9 (49) 108.9 ypg

Limiting Air Traffic
When the Pirates held Southern Miss to 162 passing yards Saturday it marked the fourth-straight contest in which East Carolina kept an opponent under 200 aerial years - the longest streak for the program since 1999 (five consecutive games) ... ECU has also only surrendered an average of one TD pass during that span (1/Memphis, 2/Navy, 0/Tulane and 1/Southern Miss).

The Fewer Yards The Better
East Carolina has also held its last two opponents to under 300 yards of total offense - a first for the Pirates since 2008 (UCF/224 and Marshall/292) ... ECU gave up 266 against Tulane on Oct. 29 before allowing 299 to Southern Miss last week ... In their last three C-USA contests, the Pirates have surrendered an average of only 266.0 yards per game.

Going Big On The Ground
The Pirates have used a deliberate and effective rushing attack the last four games ... ECU has surpassed the 100-yard plateau in each contest - averaging 131.3 yards per outing - after only totaling 345 rushing yards in the season's first five matchups (69.0 ypg) ... East Carolina has also tallied 10 rushing TDs the last four weeks after netting just three ground scores in the first five games.

Unfriendly Road Scoreboards
In their last six road games, the Pirates have surrendered 277 points - an average of nearly 50 (46.2) points per game ... In fact, ECU has given up 42 or more points in nine of 11 road games during the Ruffin McNeill era ... The two lone exceptions, however, have come in the last two contests as the Pirates limited Memphis to 17 points (Oct. 15) and Navy to 35 (Oct. 22).

Late Wake-Up Calls
After second-half struggles in the first two games (56-16 deficit vs. South Carolina and Virginia Tech), East Carolina has gotten out of the gate slowly in the last six contests (North Carolina, Houston, Memphis, Navy, Tulane and Southern Miss) ... The Pirates have been outscored 62-17 in first quarter action against the Tar Heels, Cougars, Tigers, Midshipmen, Green Wave and Golden Eagles ... In addition, the latter six opponents own a combined 131-61 advantage in the opening half, but ECU rallied to capture wins on three occasions (Memphis, Navy and Tulane).

Chasing The Single-Season Reception Record
Despite missing a combined three games due to injuries, senior outside receiver Lance Lewis and freshman inside receiver Justin Hardy have put together two of the best statistical years in East Carolina program history. A look at the Pirates' single-season reception leaderboard:

No. Player (Year) Receptions Yards Avg. TD
1. Dwayne Harris (2010) 101 1,123 11.1 10
1. Lance Lewis (2010) 89 1,116 12.5 14
3. Terrance Copper (2003) 87 897 10.3 2
4. Dwayne Harris (2009) 83 978 11.8 7
  Aundrae Allison (2005) 83 1,024 12.3 7
6. Aundrae Allison (2006) 62 708 11.4 4
7. Lance Lewis (2011) 60 600 10.0 8
8. Dwayne Harris (2008) 58 654 11.3 1
9. Troy Smith (1997) 54 795 14.7 4
10. Hunter Gallimore (1991) 49 881 17.9 8
11. Justin Hardy (2011) 48 500 10.4 4
  Jamar Bryant (2007) 48 704 14.7 6
  Mitchell Galloway (1996) 48 554 11.5 2
  Luke Fisher (1991) 48 686 14.3 4