GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina looks to record its second-straight victory when it opens American Athletic Conference play Saturday at league newcomer Rice.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The contest will stream live via ESPN+ with Richard Cross (play-by-play), Taylor McHargue (color analyst) and Smacker Miles (sideline) on the call.

The Pirates are under the direction of fifth-year head coach Mike Houston.

ECU (1-3) registered its first defensive shutout since 2000 last time out, knocking off FCS opponent Gardner-Webb 44-0 before a crowd of 40,589 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The Pirates dominated in practically every phase, forcing five turnovers and limiting the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ potent offense to just 106 total yards. Quarterback Alex Flinn tossed the first touchdown pass of his career, completing eight of 18 attempts for 94 yards. Mason Garcia also connected on nine of 12 passes for 89 yards while adding 18 rushing yards and a touchdown. Running backs Rahjai HarrisJavious Bond and Kamarro Edmonds each scored and led a rushing attack that ground out 182 yards.

Rice (2-2, 0-1 AAC) fell to South Florida 42-29 in its AAC opener last Saturday in Tampa after leading 14-13 at the half. Luke McCaffrey had a career day, with 199 receiving yards while surpassing 1,000 career receiving yards. JT Daniels finished with a personal-high 432 yards with three touchdowns, completing 27 of 40 passing attempts. The Owls own wins over Houston and Texas Southern as well as losses to the Bulls and then No. 11 Texas.

Houston talks about first win, opening up AAC play

East Carolina Records, Streaks and Trends

  • Is 0-2 in road games this season.
  • Has surrendered just 56 points in the fourth quarter in the last 10 games.
  • Has forced at least one turnover in 32 of the last 35 games (and 43 of the last 49)
  • Scored a pair of defensive touchdowns at Appalachian State, doing so for the first time since 2013 (vs. Old Dominion).
  • Recovered five fumbles against Gardner-Webb (most in Mike Houston era) – a first since setting the standard against TCU on Nov. 23, 2002.
  • Registered first defensive shutout since 38-0 win over Duke on Sept. 2, 2000.

The Series
Saturday’s encounter marks the fifth between Rice and East Carolina. The two former Conference USA opponents have split games on their home turf (ECU is 2-0 in Greenville and Rice 2-0 in Houston). The Pirates have averaged 45 points per game in their two wins but managed only 17 in a loss during the two teams’ first meeting in Houston. Clark Fangmeier’s 40-yard field goal with three seconds remaining lifted Rice to a triumph which also knocked ECU out of the C-USA Championship Game in the final league game of the season.

Episode 5 of ‘Inside Pirate Athletics’

Mike Houston Against Mike Bloomgren
Saturday’s matchup represents the first time both head coaches have faced each other on the gridiron.

Last Meeting
Rice 62, East Carolina 38
(Nov. 20, 2010 @ Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas)
Rice running backs Jeremy Eddington (143) and Sam McGuffie (114) keyed a 410-yard rushing attack to lead the inspired Owls to a 62-38 Conference USA triumph over East Carolina. Rice scored on its first five possessions to build 27-7 and 34-14 leads in the second quarter before the Pirates used a 229-yard first half passing performance by Dominique Davis to rally back and trim the deficit to just six, 34-28, at halftime. The Owls followed by using one of four Eddington ground touchdowns to score 28 of the game’s first 31 points after intermission to secure the victory. In all, Rice amassed 639 yards of offense, which marked the fifth-highest total allowed by an ECU team in school history. Davis, who finished the contest with 308 air yards on a 21 of-39 passing effort, also accounted for four of five Pirate TDs – three coming on throws to push his school-record single-season total to 34. Owl quarterback Taylor McHargue, who passed for 220 yards and three scores, added 93 yards and a TD on the ground.

ECU blanks Gardner-Webb for first shutout in 23 years

Shutout Free … 316 And Counting
East Carolina enters Saturday’s American Athletic Conference 2023 opener at Rice with an active streak of 316 games of not suffering a shutout – a school record (previous mark was 110 set from ’71-’81). The last time the Pirates were blanked was on Oct. 4, 1997 (56-0 at Syracuse). ECU’s 316-game run currently ranks among the top 10 nationally (Florida is first with 439).

Comparing 10-Year, Five-Game Results
East Carolina’s 44-0 win over Gardner-Webb gave the Pirates their first win of the season and marked the third time over the last 10 years they have opened with a 1-3 record through the first four games. A win at Rice would push the record to 2-3 for the third time during that span, while a loss would drop them to 1-4 – also for the third time.

Looking For More Loot
Through four games this season, East Carolina is +1 in turnover margin. ECU forced eight fumbles against Gardner-Webb and recovered five (most in Mike Houston era) – a feat that they last accomplished on Nov. 23, 2002, against TCU (span of 253 games). In its last two games, ECU has forced seven turnovers while coughing up the ball four times. A year ago, the Pirates finished with a +13 turnover margin forcing 10 fumbles, recovering nine and picked off 11 passes for 154 return yards. Against UCF, ECU forced a season-high four turnovers (3 INTs, 1 fumble) and had five multi-turnover games on the year. Despite its impressive 45-3 win, East Carolina’s 16-game streak of forcing at least one turnover came to a halt against Temple on Nov. 6 (2021). The run, which began on Oct. 3, 2020 at Georgia State and produced 36 takeaways (22 interceptions, 14 fumble recoveries), was the program’s longest since a 33-game streak (from 2007 to 2010). In all, ECU still has at least one takeaway in 32 of the last 35 (and 43 of 45) contests, as well as 14 of 17 games dating back to the start of the 2022 campaign.

Analyzing The 2023 Overall Schedule
ECU’s 2023 opponents compiled an overall record of 87-67 (.565) in 2022. The Pirates’ four non-conference opponents were a combined 35-17 (.673) last season while the eight AAC teams on the state tallied a 52-50 (.510) mark. Seven programs had at least six or more wins including three teams that had 10-plus victories – Michigan (13-1), Tulane (12-2) and UTSA (11-3). Five of East Carolina’s first six opponents finished last year at or above .500.
Who went Bowling? … The Pirates’ 2023 schedule features contests against five teams who competed in bowl games last season, highlighted by Michigan’s second-straight appearance in the College Football Playoff Semifinals and Tulane’s comeback victory over USC in the Cotton Bowl … Michigan (Fiesta), Tulane (Cotton), Marshall (Myrtle Beach), UTSA (Duluth Trading Cure), and SMU (New Mexico) … Three of the Pirates’ six home games are against 2022 bowl qualifiers.
In the Final Polls… Two of ECU’s 2023 opponents finished the 2022 season in college football’s two major polls (Associated Press and USA Today/AFCA Coaches) – AAC champion Tulane (9/9) and Michigan (3/3).

Up Next
Following its bye week, East Carolina returns to action Thursday, Oct. 12, when it welcomes SMU to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and the game will air live on ESPN.