ECU And Ohio To Meet In Beef `O' Brady's Bowl

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UABSPORTS.COM

Dec. 22, 2013

East Carolina Game 13: Ohio
Date Monday, Dec. 23
Time 2 P.M. (EST)
Location St. Petersburg, Fla. (Tropicana Field)
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GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina will make its seventh bowl appearance in the last eight years when it faces off against Mid-American Conference member Ohio in the Beef `O' Brady's Bowl on Monday, Dec. 23 at Tropicana Field.

The Pirates, who will try to maintain their momentum after closing the regular season with wins in five of the last six games, are in search of their first bowl victory since defeating No. 22 Boise State 41-38 in the 2007 Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl. ECU will also be looking for its 10th win of the year, which would be the program's second-highest single-season victory total in school history.

EAST CAROLINA RECORDS AND STREAKS

  • Qualified for nine bowl appearances since 2000 (seven of the last eight years) ...
  • Has won 17 of the last 19 games (and 44 of 51) when scoring 30 or more points ...
  • Has won 26 of the last 27 games when converting third downs at 50% or higher ...
  • Has won 11 of the last 13 games when forcing two or more turnovers ...
  • Has won 13-straight games when gaining 200 or more rushing yards ...
  • Has won six of the last nine games away from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium ...
  • Has won three of the last four games vs. non-Conference USA opponents ...
  • Has won three-straight games (and six of the last seven) against MAC members ...
  • Has lost four-straight (and six of the last seven) bowl games ...

THE SERIES
East Carolina leads 2-0 ... The Pirates used Scott Harley's 205 rushing yards and a school-record six ground scores to post a 55-45 victory in the opener at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in 1996 before benefitting from some late fourth-quarter heroics by quarterback Bobby Weaver (see recap below) in ECU's 21-14 road triumph two years later ... The Pirates' 561 yards of offense in the `96 meeting ranks as the ninth-highest in stadium history, while the Bobcats' 410 rushing yards still stands as the ninth-best opponent total ever compiled against East Carolina.

EAST CAROLINA AGAINST MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE
East Carolina has compiled an all-time record of 11-5 (.688) against current members of the Mid American Conference ... In addition to a 2-0 ledger against Ohio, the Pirates are 1-0 vs. Akron, 1-0 vs. Massachusetts, 1-0 vs. Northern Illinois, 2-1 vs. Central Michigan, 2-2 vs. Bowling Green and 2-2 vs. Toledo ... ECU's last contest against a current MAC member was the aforementioned 21-14 victory at Ohio on Sept. 19, 1998.

OHIO AGAINST CONFERENCE USA
Ohio has posted a 35-24-6 (.585) all-time mark against current members of Conference USA ... The Bobcats have faced Marshall (32-19-6), North Texas (2-0), Tulane (1-1), Southern Miss (0-1), Tulsa (0-1) and East Carolina (0-2) ... Ohio's last battle against a C-USA member was its 34-31 victory over Marshall earlier this season.

THE THUNDERING HERD: A COMMON 2013 OPPONENT
Both ECU and Ohio had Marshall on its schedule this season, but the results were vastly different ... The Bobcats surrendered 482 yards, but played turnover-free football in a 34-31 home win on Sept. 14, while the Pirates gave up 539 yards and had three TOs in a 59-28 road loss on Nov. 29.

ON THE ROAD - 4-2 IN 2013
Since joining C-USA in 1997, East Carolina is 48-64 (.429) when playing away from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium ... Before defeating North Carolina, Middle Tennessee, FIU and NC State, and falling at Tulane and Marshall this year, 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 5-2 when they meet Ohio on Dec. 23, which would represent the program's best "away" ledger since a similar 5-1 slate in 1991.

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 featured a similar status this year ... Overall (123 programs), ECU currently ranks 54th nationally in average attendance and 58th in capacity percentage (87.97).

BACK TO THE FUTURE
ECU will begin competition in the American Athletic Conference next fall and should contend for top attendance honors there as well ... Excluding Louisville (52,914) and Rutgers (46,549), which are both leaving the league after this season, UCF's mark of 42,084 led the AAC.

RUFF'S POST-SEASON DESTINATIONS
As previously mentioned, the 2013 season marks Pirate head coach Ruffin McNeill's 28th at the collegiate level ... In 18 years at college football's top level (FBS/I-A), he's been a part of 15 bowl appearances (7-8) with four different programs (East Carolina, Texas Tech, Fresno State, Clemson) ... In seven seasons as an assistant at the FCS (I-AA) level, McNeill coached in six playoff games during his two tours of duty at Appalachian State.

LEAGUE, NON-LEAGUE STAT COMPARISONS
In its eight C-USA contests this year, East Carolina averaged 40.8 points, 132.9 rushing yards, 340.2 passing yards and 473.1 total yards per game ... By comparison, the Pirates booked 39.8 ppg, 119.2 rypg, 314.0 pypg and 433.2 ypg averages in their four non-conference tilts ... Defensively, ECU surrendered 23.8 points, 133.9 rushing yards, 201.4 passing yards and 335.2 total yards in its league contests, while giving up 28.0, 84.8, 334.5 and 419.2 averages in games against Old Dominion, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and NC State this season.

NON-SATURDAY MAYHEM
East Carolina is 15-19 in non-Saturday games since 2000, when it became a regular "alternative" to the game's scheduling staple ... Oddly, the Pirates have fared better on the road - compiling a 10-9 record compared to a 5-10 slate in Greenville ... In terms of days (including bowls), ECU is 4-0 on Sundays, 0-1 on Mondays, 2-1 on Tuesdays, 0-3 on Wednesdays, 5-8 on Thursdays and 4-6 on Fridays ... Since 2005, the Pirates have defeated Boise State (bowl/ Sunday/'07), UCF (Sunday/'08), UTEP (Friday/'08), Memphis (Tuesday/'09), Tulsa (Sunday/'09 & `10), UAB (Thursday/'10), Marshall (Friday/'12) and FAU (Thursday/'13) while losing to Kentucky (bowl/Friday/'08), Virginia Tech (Thursday/'09), SMU (Friday/'10), Maryland (bowl/Wednesday/'10), UCF (Thursday/'12) and Marshall (Friday/'13).

SHUTOUT-FREE ... 205 AND COUNTING
ECU will enter the Ohio game with an active streak of 205 games of not suffering a shutout - a new school record (17 points at Rice in `06 surpassed the previous mark of 110 set from `71 to `81) ... The last time the Pirates were blanked was on Oct. 4, 1997 (56-0 at Syracuse) ... In terms of a national standing, ECU's 204-game run currently ranks ninth (see below) among all active FBS streaks and is the 20th-longest in the all-time annals.

McNEILL: A TOP FOUR PASS LISTING
Although East Carolina's 275 and 291-yard passing totals at NC State and Marshall ranked as the third and fourth-lowest this season, it was enough to catapult the 2013 offensive unit into second place on ECU's single-season pass yardage list with 3,978 ... Ruffin McNeill's first squad set the standard in 2010 with 4,143 air yards before his second and third editions followed with 3,433 and 3,551, respectively, thus now giving him the top four passing seasons in the Pirate record books ... A 166-yard performance vs. Ohio in the Beef `O' Brady's Bowl would establish a new record.

EARNING BACK SOME RESPECT
The arrival of new defensive coordinator Rick Smith has made a visible impact on that side of the ball for the Pirates ... ECU stands among C-USA's top units in a handful of categories, including a top rank in rush defense:

Category/Game 2010-12 2013 Improvement
Rushing Defense 185.6 117.5 (1st) 68.1
Total Defense 430.0 363.2 (5th) 66.8
Scoring Defense 36.1 25.2 (6th) 10.9
To offer some perspective, ECU ranked 120th nationally in total defense, 119th in scoring defense and 117th in rush defense during Ruffin McNeill's first year (2010).

SLOWING THE RUN
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 half of their contests this year (90 vs. ODU, 53 vs. VT, 67 vs. UNC, 89 vs. MTSU, 85 vs. TLN, 73 vs. FIU) ... Lastly, ECU has given up only one run over 30 yards this season.

TO PILLAGE AND PLUNDER
The Pirates have recorded a takeaway in 13 of the last 14 contests (had their 12-game streak snapped at NC State Nov. 23) ... Additionally, East Carolina has created two or more turnovers in 18 of the last 31 contests ... After collecting one in the `13 opener vs. ODU, ECU nabbed three vs. FAU, one each vs. VT and UNC before getting two at MTSU, one at Tulane, a pair more vs. USM, one at FIU, four vs. Tulsa, three vs. UAB and two at Marshall ... ECU is 20-7 when it forces two or more turnovers in the McNeill era.

RICK'S PICKS
In addition to notable improvement with the per-game averages, Rick Smith's leadership of the ECU defense - most notably his influence in the secondary - has resulted in a return to national prominence as one of the top interception units on the FBS level ... The Pirates have picked off a pass in 10 of the last 11 games (six in the last four outings, two for TDs) ... Currently ECU ranks 27th nationally in pass thefts.

TURNING UP THE PRESSURE
The Pirates have netted 35 sacks (-214 yards) in 12 games this season, which currently ranks 14th nationally ... OLB Derrell Johnson (7.5) headlines a list of 13 ECU defenders who have recorded at least a half of a QB drop this season ... ECU's nine-sack effort at FIU is the top single-game performance nationally in 2013, matching Texas, Northern Illinois, Arizona State and South Alabama.

A RETURN INVESTMENT
East Carolina's kickoff return unit has enjoyed success during the 2013 season, currently standing sixth at the FBS level ... The Pirates average 25.2 yards per return - the latter sparked by senior Lance Ray's 25.1 ypr clip, which ranks 26th nationally heading into the bowl season.

EXTENDING DRIVES
Of East Carolina's 155 offensive possessions this season, only 32 have been "terminated" in three or less plays (punt, turnover, missed field goal on fourth down) - which currently ranks 10th (for fewest) nationally.

PASSING WITH PRECISION
While the Pirates' spread passing attack might be a little short on big single play numbers with "only" four throws over 50 yards so far this year, its distribution accuracy (to 19 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.

  • Selected as Conference USA's Most Valuable Player in 2013 ...
  • Has accounted for 73 of 105 offensive TDs (70%) as ECU's starter ...
  • Has converted 106-of-116 redzone opportunities while under center ...
  • Is 16-7 overall as a starter, but has won 13 of 16 C-USA contests ...
  • Has thrown for over 400 yards on three occasions and authored seven contests over 350, 11 over 300 and 18 over 250 yards ...
  • Only one of two QBs in ECU history to post back-to-back 3,000-yard passing seasons (Dominique Davis, 2010-11) ...
  • 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 46 completions vs. ODU currently ranks as the third-highest single-game total nationally behind Washington State's Connor Halliday (58/Oregon) and Fresno State's Derek Carr (52/Rutgers) ...
  • Directly responsible for seven TD vs. Tulsa (five pass, two rush) and was 34-of-50 for 384 yards through the air ... Accounted for six scores (three/three) at North Carolina and five at NC State (three/two) ...
  • Earned his fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh career C-USA Offensive Player-of-the Week honor for his efforts vs. Monarchs, Tar Heels, Golden Hurricane and Wolfpack, while also picking up an ESPN Helmet Sticker vs. UNC ...
  • Threw for 365 yards on a career-high 57 attempts at MTSU, completing 43 - which stands sixth on the FBS single-game list in 2013 ...
  • Currently ranks among FBS active career leaders in completion percentage (3rd/68.8), completions per game (6th/24.3), total offense plays per game (8th/41.6), pass attempts per game (8th/35.3), pass yards per game (9th/268.5), total offense per game (14th/273.8), TDs responsible for (20th/73) and pass efficiency rating (24th/148.20) ...
  • Is second on the team with 10 ground TDs in 2013 after topping unit with eight a year ago ... Is just two shy of matching Leander Green's program single-season record (for QBs) of 12 set in 1979 ...
  • Has equaled a single-game East Carolina record with five TD passes on four occasions - vs. Memphis (`12), Old Dominion, Tulsa and UAB (`13) ...
  • Has thrown a touchdown pass in 20 of his last 21 games ...

HARD(L)Y A SECRET ANYMORE
Junior inside receiver Justin Hardy is currently fifth nationally in receptions per game, hauling in 8.8 passes per contest ... His 10-grab-yard effort against Marshall was his ninth career double-digit catch total, while his 136-yard outing at FIU was the ninth of his career in triple-digits ... Among all active NCAA players, Hardy ranks 2nd in career receptions per game (7.3), 2nd in receptions (257), 6th in receiving yards per game (82.8) and 13th in receiving yards (2,981); his school-record 17 catches vs. Tulane (Oct. 12) still remains as the second-highest single-game reception total for all FBS receivers in 2013.

RINGING `EM UP, SHUTTING `EM DOWN
OFFENSE - East Carolina has scored 485 points during the 2013 season, seven more than the school-record total of 478 set during Ruffin McNeill's first season in 2010 ... ECU has tallied 50 or more points on five occasions this year, a first in school history, and reached at least 30 in nine of 11 games ... Lastly, the Pirates have scored 280 points in their last six games, an average of 46.7 per contest.
DEFENSE - East Carolina has limited opponents to 17 or less points six times in 2013, a first since the 2009 campaign ... Prior to the Marshall tilt (59), the Pirates surrendered only 93 points in the previous five outings - an average of only 18.6 ppg.

WE'LL TAKE THE BALL FIRST
ECU has received the opening kickoff in 23-straight games - the longest current streak nationally (UCF/14 and Illinois/11 were second and third, respectively, before having its runs snapped in mid-November).

CHARTER MEMBER OF THE 4K-1K CLUB IN `13?
East Carolina could become the fi rst FBS program in 2013 to feature both a 4,000-yard passer (Shane Carden needs 134) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Vintavious Cooper/5) ... Fresno State RB Josh Quezada needs 213 ground yards vs. UCS in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl (Saturday/Dec. 21) to complement Derek Carr's 4,866-yard passing effort this year and beat the Pirates to the punch ... Other teams in the running include Marshall, Baylor, Ball State and Florida State (listed in order of bowl appearance).

WINS IN SIX OF EIGHT C-USA GAMES
In addition to the aforementioned overall record, the Pirates' setback vs. Marshall gave East Carolina a 6-2 mark in its final year of Conference USA competition - which ranks second behind a pair of 7-1 ledgers in 2009 and 2012 ... The Pirates also turned in a pair of 6-2 records in 2007 and 2008 since the league adopted divisional play in 2005 ... ECU closed out its C-USA stay finishing first or second seven times (in a nine-year span).

A SUNSHINE STATE HOMECOMING
A total of five (5) East Carolina players hail from the state of Florida: junior RB Breon Allen (Daytona Beach/Warner Christian), true freshman QB Kurt Benkert (Cape Coral/Island Coast), senior OL Jordan Davis (Fort Walton Beach/Choctawhatchee), junior OL Drew Gentry (Tallahassee/North Florida Christian) and senior WR Lance Ray (Quincy/East Gadsden).

EIGHT AWARDED DEGREES THIS FALL
Eight (8) Pirates will suit up for the Beef `O' Brady's Bowl as recent graduates (having participated in ECU's Fall Commencement Exercises on Dec. 14) - CB Detric Allen (business management), CB Adonis Armstrong (communications), FB Jimmy Booth (health fitness specialist), QB Shane Carden (sports studies), FS Damon Magazu (business marketing), OL Keifer Neal (communications), OWR Lance Ray (communications) and OL Will Simmons (health fitness specialist) ... Five current Pirates already earned their bachelor's degrees prior to the start of the 2013 season - OL Jordan Davis (communications), OL Adhem Elsawi (biology), TE/FB Zico Pasut (criminal justice), ILB Kyle Tudor (business marketing) and OWR Reese Wiggins (communications).

ON THIS DAY IN PIRATES' HISTORY (1-1)
Dec. 23, 2006: South Florida 24, East Carolina 7
Dec. 23, 2007: East Carolina 41, Boise State 38