GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina closes out its home schedule Saturday, Nov. 19, playing host to Houston on the Pirates’ Senior Day at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. and the contest will stream on ESPN+ with Richard Cross (play-by-play) and Taylor McHargue (analyst) handling the broadcast duties.

ECU is under the direction of fourth-year head coach Mike Houston.

The Pirates (6-4, 3-3 AAC) nearly ended Cincinnati’s now 32-game home winning streak last Friday, but the Bearcats held East Carolina scoreless in the fourth quarter on the way to a 27-25 victory inside Nippert Stadium. ECU posted a 100-yard rusher and receiver in the same contest for the fourth time this campaign as Keaton Mitchell racked up 112 rushing yards while C.J. Johnson tallied 123 aerial yards. Holton Ahlers completed 26 of 46 attempts for two touchdowns and no interceptions while setting the program career record for completions (1,061).

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Houston (6-4, 4-2 AAC) knocked off Temple 43-36 at home last weekend to capture its fourth victory in its last five outings. Quarterback Clayton Tune notched 289 yards via 29 completions with three touchdowns and an interception. Stacy Sneed also produced a solid effort on the receiving end, putting up 143 yards on 11 catches with a pair of touchdowns.

With a victory, East Carolina will record five wins at home for the first time since 2012.

East Carolina Records, Streaks and Trends

  • Earned bowl eligibility for the second-straight year under Mike Houston (first since 2012-14)
  • Has won seven of its last 11 AAC games (4 of 5/2021; 3 of 6/2022)
  • Has allowed only 10 fourth-quarter offensive touchdowns in the last 16 games
  • Has surrendered just six points in the fourth quarter in last three contests
  • Has outscored opponents 162-113 in the second half and overtime this year
  • Has forced at least one turnover in 26 of the last 30 games (and in 37 of the last 42)
  • Has snapped more offensive plays than their nine opponents (709-652/+57)
  • Leads the American Athletic Conference and the Group of Five in average attendance (41,189) while ranking 48th nationally
  • Three of four losses have been by three points or less

The Series
Houston leads the all-time series 8-7. The Cougars, who have won all three matchups against the Pirates in American Athletic Conference action, have also won four of the last five contests on the gridiron. ECU has claimed two of the last three meetings in Greenville, but have dropped its last three against Houston.

Mike Houston Against The Cougars
Including Mike Houston’s prior eight-year tenure as a collegiate head coach at Lenoir Rhyne, The Citadel and James Madison, as well as his current stint at East Carolina, Saturday’s game will mark his second-ever meeting against Houston.

Dana Holgerson Against The Pirates
In addition to two meetings as a head coach, Dana Holgorsen has also squared off against East Carolina on a combined three occasions as an assistant coach on the Texas Tech and Houston staffs. Two of the three meetings were postseason encounters in which the Pirates recorded victories (2000 Bowl and 2009 Conference USA Championship Game).

Last Meeting (Oct. 23, 2021)
Alton McCaskill rambled into the end zone from 25 yards out on the Cougars’ first overtime snap to lift Houston to a 31-24 American Athletic Conference triumph over East Carolina at TDECU Stadium. McCaskill’s game winner and a subsequent UH takeaway finally capped a contest that ended at 12:47 a.m. ET after a five-hour, eighteen-minute lightning delay. On ECU’s overtime possession, Houston forced and recovered a fumble by the Pirates’ Ryan Jones following a reception to secure the victory. East Carolina, trailing 24-10 with seven minutes remaining in the contest, mounted an impressive comeback by cashing in successive drives with touchdowns. Ahlers finished a six-play, 71-yard march with a one-yard scoring plunge with 6:59 left before connecting with Audie Omotosho on a 13-yard touchdown toss with 5:43 showing following a Houston fumble. The Cougars’ defense stiffened however, limiting ECU to just 23 yards on its next three possessions to close out the win. The two teams were flagged for a combined 17 times for 140 yards and collectively converted only four-of-25 third-down opportunities. In addition to their 1-of-12 rate on third down, the Pirates were also stopped on all three of their fourth-down attempts. East Carolina appeared to have some early momentum after Jsi Hatfield’s 40-yard touchdown reception helped the Pirates jump out to a 10-3 lead, but Marcus Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a score to even the contest and preceded a pair of Clayton Tune touchdown passes for a 24-10 Houston halftime edge. ECU (82) and UH (87) each failed to reach triple digit rushing totals as both teams averaged less than 2.5 yards per carry. Ahlers completed 23-of-37 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns.

Cincinnati Leftovers (Team)
East Carolina fell to 13-13 all time against Cincinnati and 5-8 versus the Bearcats on the road … Dropped to 1-2 in true road contests this season … Played their third straight game against an opponent headed to the Big 12 Conference in 2023 … Notched its first safety since Sept. 5, 2009 in a home contest against Appalachian State – a span of 166 games … Forced at least one turnover in 26 of the last 30 games (and 37 of the last 42) … Produced its fourth-straight game without a turnover … Scored first for the seventh time this season.

Cincinnati Leftovers (Individual)
QB Holton Ahlers completed 26 of 46 attempts for 280 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions … For his career, he has accounted for 113 TDs (89 passing, 24 rushing) … He set the program record for career completions (1,061) …Upped his season passing yards total to 2,912 – the 10th most in a single season in program history … Now owns three of the top 10 ECU single-season passing yards performances … RB Keaton Mitchell registered a team-high 112 yards on 16 carries with a rushing touchdown. He now owns seven rushing touchdowns in his last four outings, also surpassing 100 yards in the last four contests … Moved into seventh place on the East Carolina career rushing yards list, finishing the night with 2,550 … Surpassed 100 yards in a game six times this season and 12 times in his career … WR C.J. Johnson racked up a squad-best 123 yards on seven catches – his third 100-yard game of the season and seventh of his career … PK Andrew Conrad hit a career-long 47-yard field goal in the first quarter … P Luke Larsen notched career highs in punts (seven) and punting yards (294), averaging 42 yards a punt and landing three kicks inside the 20-yard line … SAF Julius Wood logged a team-high 10 tackles, reaching double digits for the fourth time in the last five games … SAF Jireh Wilson tallied his third interception of the season in the second quarter.

At Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium
East Carolina’s all-time record at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is 200-113 (.640). The Pirates opened the facility on Sept. 21, 1963 with a 20-10 win over Wake Forest in front of 17,000 fans, celebrated the stadium’s 50th anniversary in 2013 and recently hosted its 300th game vs. Tulane in 2020. Before a 4-2 clip in 2021, a 1-3 record two years ago and a collective 13-19 mark from 2015-2019, ECU was 5-1 in 2014, 2013 and 2012 (15-3) and won a combined 10 of 12 home matchups in 2009 (6-1) and 2008 (4-1). With its 34-13 win over UCF (Oct. 22, 2022), ECU has posted 41 winning campaigns at DFS since 1963.

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 9,368,955 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 3,097,666 fans.

Comparing 10-Year, 10-Game Results
East Carolina’s 27-25 loss at Cincinnati gave the Pirates a .600 or better record for the fourth time in the last 10 years and a 6-4 ledger for the second time in Mike Houston’s four-year tenure. A victory over Houston would push ECU to a 7-4 or better ledger for the second-straight year (fourth occasion since 2013), but a loss would put the team at 6-5 through 11 contests.

Band On The Run
East Carolina is averaging 170.8 rushing yards per game heading into the Houston contest. Spreading that over a 12-game regular season (2,050), this year’s Pirates would have the third-most yards in program history since 2001. A year ago, ECU totaled 1,949 yards on the ground marking the program’s fourth-highest regular season clip since 2000. In addition, the Pirates have posted 11 200-yard rushing contests in the Mike Houston era (2/2019, 5/2020, 3/2021, 1/2022).

Mitchell Eyes Consecutive 1K Seasons
Mitchell, who leads The American in rushing yards, needs just 25 ground yards for 1,000 on the season. Once he reaches that milestone, he will be the first Pirate running back with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons since Tay Cooper (2012-13). Last year, Mitchell surpassed the single-season 1,000-yard mark with a 23-yard rush on the initial snap of the game against Navy, becoming the first East Carolina running back since 2013 to reach four digits in a campaign. In all, 17 Pirates have eclipsed the 1K ground yard mark in ECU history beginning with Dave Alexander (1,029) in 1965.

Among Top Passing Units In American History
Since joining the AAC in 2014, the Pirates stand second in passing yards over a combined eight-plus year period despite utilizing nine starting quarterbacks, four offensive coordinators and three head coaches: 1. Memphis (35,762), 2. East Carolina (31,185), 3. SMU (29,001), 4. UCF (28,548), 5. Houston (28,698), 6. Cincinnati (28,158), 7. Tulsa (26,712), 8. Temple (24,754), 9. South Florida (22,195), 10. Tulane (20,308) and 11. Navy (8,896). However, the Pirates top the league in completions (2,635) and attempts (4,313). ECU has also accounted for a conference-high 20 400-yard passing games and surpassed the 300-yard mark on 53 occasions during the 100-game span. The top two receivers in NCAA FBS history by career receptions – Zay Jones (399 from 2013-16) and Justin Hardy (387 from 2011-2014) – are former ECU players.

13K-1K Club Membership
Ahlers is the lone active FBS quarterback who has passed for 13,000+ yards and rushed for over 1,000 for his (overall career) and one of five active 10K/1K QBs. He is also the only active FBS QB with over 14,500 total yards.

Looking For More Loot
Heading into the Houston game, East Carolina is currently +7 on the season in takeaways. The Pirates have forced nine fumbles, recovering five and picked off nine passes for 137 return yards. In its last home outing (vs. UCF), ECU forced a season-high four turnovers (3 INTs, 1 fumble) and registered its fourth multi-turnover game of the season.

Up Next
East Carolina wraps up the regular season Saturday, Nov. 26, at Temple in a 1 p.m. kickoff. The game will stream live on ESPN+.