GREENVILLE, N.C. — East Carolina christens its 2023 home slate Saturday, welcoming former Conference USA foe to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for a non-league contest at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. and the game will air live via ESPNU with Jay Alter (play-by-play) and Rene Ingoglia (color analyst) on the call.
The Pirates are under the direction of fifth-year head coach Mike Houston.
ECU (0-1) began the 2023 campaign with a 30-3 loss at No. 2 Michigan. Andrew Conrad’s 33-yard field goal on the final play of the game helped the Pirates avoid the shutout at Michigan Stadium and extended the school-record streak of scoring points in a game to 313. The East Carolina defense held Michigan’s vaunted running attack in check, allowing two yards or less on 10 of 12 first-half attempts and 122 yards overall. Mason Garcia completed 11 of 18 pass attempts for 80 yards and rushed for a team-best 36 yards on eight carries while Alex Flinn went 6-for-11 for 52 yards and ran the ball three times for 14 yards.
Marshall (1-0) recorded a come-from-behind 21-17 victory over FCS opponent Albany in its season and home opener last Saturday.
East Carolina Records, Streaks and Trends
- Has won nine of last 15 non-conference games dating back to 2019.
- Had a streak of seven-straight games without a turnover snapped at Michigan.
- Has allowed only 13 fourth-quarter offensive touchdowns in the last 20 games dating back to 2021.
- Has surrendered just 28 points in the fourth quarter in the last seven games.
- Has forced at least one turnover in 29 of the last 32 games (and in 40 of the last 46).
East Carolina leads the series with Marshall by an 11-5 count. Most recently, the Pirates have taken seven of the last 10 and nine of the last 13 encounters. The Herd owns the only neutral site victory after posting a thrilling 64-61 overtime win at the 2001 GMAC Bowl (Mobile, Ala.). ECU has captured all seven meetings in Greenville, while Marshall has taken four of eight in Huntington.
Mike Houston Against The Thundering Herd
Mike Houston is 1-0 all-time against Marshall as a head coach at East Carolina with the Pirates winning a thriller in 2021 on a 1-yard TD run by Rahjai Harris with 55 seconds remaining in the game capping an improbable comeback where ECU trailed 38-21 going in to the fourth quarter.
East Carolina 42, Marshall 38
(Sept. 21, 2021 @ Joan C. Edwards Stadium – Huntington, W.Va.)
Rahjai Harris’ one-yard scoring run with 55 seconds remaining capped an improbable comeback that led East Carolina to a 42-38 non-league triumph over former Conference USA rival Marshall at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. The Pirates erased a 17-point deficit – 38-21 – with 7:30 left in the contest, the program’s biggest comeback since a similar 17-point margin (34-17 with 7:26 remaining) against NC State that resulted in a 37-34 win in the Peach Bowl on Jan. 1, 1992. In addition to 80 points, the two teams combined for 1,210 yards of total offense – 828 coming through the air. After Herd quarterback Grant Wells’ six-yard scamper gave Marshall a 38-21 cushion with 1:03 left in the third period, ECU scored on three-straight possessions following a fourth-and-two stop at the Pirate 22-yard line. East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers, who finished the night with a 30-of-48, 368-yard passing performance, scored from five yards out before logging his first career touchdown reception – a 27-yarder from Tyler Snead – to narrow the gap to 38-35 with 2:31 remaining. Harris then finished a six play, 53-yard game-winning drive with his one-yard touchdown plunge.
East Carolina Against The Sun Belt
East Carolina has compiled an all-time record of 51-62 (.451) against current members of the Sun Belt Conference. The Pirates are 11-5 against Marshall, 12-20 vs. Appalachian State, 2-0 vs. Arkansas State, 1-0 vs. Coastal Carolina, 3-0 vs. Georgia Southern, 0-1 vs. Georgia State, 0-1 vs. James Madison, 4-7 vs. Louisiana, 1-1 vs. Louisiana-Monroe, 4-0 vs. Old Dominion, 12-27 vs. Southern Miss, and 1-0 vs. Texas State. ECU has never played South Alabama or Troy on the gridiron. Since 2010, the Pirates own a 10-7 record against current members of the Sun Belt and have won five of the last seven which included a 53-29 win over Coastal Carolina in the 2022 TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl.
Against Non-Conference Opponents
The Pirates have produced a 43-60 (.418) regular season non-league record since 1997, which includes a 3-1 clip in 2022. Last year, the Pirates won three of four non-league bouts – falling to then No. 13 NC State to open the season before rallying back to post victories over Old Dominion and Campbell at home as well as BYU on the road. During his first season as head coach at ECU in 2019, Mike Houston led the Pirates to a 3-1 record – the program’s first winning non-conference ledger since 2014.
Comparing 10-Year, One-Game Results
East Carolina will look to secure its third 1-1 start under head coach Mike Houston when it plays host to Marshall for the 2023 home opener. With a win, the Pirates will notch their sixth 1-1 record out the gate in the last 10 years and second straight under Houston. A loss would drop them to 0-2 for the fourth time in a decade.
The Pirate Nation – Over Nine Million Strong
East Carolina has usually been able to claim plenty of hometown support when playing at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium – establishing itself among conference attendance leaders on a near annual basis. In all, a total of 9,411,430 fans have seen the Pirates in action since 1963, and since the completion of a 7,000-seat expansion project in 2010 (to push capacity to 50,000), the Pirates have drawn 3,140,141 fans.
Among AAC Attendance Leaders
East Carolina has been among the leaders in attendance every season since becoming a member of the American Athletic Conference in 2014 and ranked second in 2022 with an average of 41,372 fans per game (trailing only UCF).
A Starters’ Log
OLB Jeremy Lewis and DL Elijah Morris both extended their starting streaks on the defensive side of the ball to 22 contests. TE Shane Calhoun has the longest active offensive streak at three heading into the Marshall contest. ECU had nine first-time starters for the program at Michigan in the season opener – DB Isaiah Brown Murray, LB RaRa Dillworth, LB Mike Edwards III, OL Dustyn Hall, LB Taylor Jackson, OL Richard Pearce, DB Shavon Revel, OL Jacob Sacra, WR Chase Sowell.
Shutout Free … 313 And Counting
East Carolina enters the Marshall game with an active streak of 313 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 313-game run currently ranks among the Top 10 nationally (Florida is first with 436).
Band On The Run
East Carolina’s 2,218-yard rushing total in 2022 marked the program’s third-highest overall seasonal clip since 2000. During regular season action, the Pirates tallied 2,046 yards which are the third most before postseason play. A year ago, ECU totaled 1,949 yards on the ground marking (regular season) then the program’s fourth-highest regular season total during that time span. In addition, the Pirates have posted 14 200-yard rushing contests in the Mike Houston era (2/2019, 5/2020, 3/2021, 4/2022).
Looking For More Loot
East Carolina finished the 2022 campaign with a +13 turnover margin. The Pirates forced 10 fumbles, recovering nine, and picked off 11 passes for 154 return yards. ECU forced a season-high four turnovers against UCF (three interceptions, one 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 29 of the last 33 (and 40 of 45) contests, as well as 11 of 13 games in 2022.
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).
East Carolina heads up to Boone for an in-state matchup with Appalachian State. Kickoff inside a sold-out Kidd-Brewer Stadium is slated for 3:30 p.m. and the contest will stream live through ESPN+.