GREENVILLE, N.C. — East Carolina begins the 2023 season on Saturday at noon when it faces off with No. 2 Michigan at Michigan Stadium.
The contest will air exclusively on Peacock with Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Lewis Johnson (analyst) and Chris Sims (sideline) on the call.
The Pirates are under the direction of fifth-year head coach Mike Houston.
East Carolina closed the 2022 season winning five of its last seven games before finishing with an 8-5 overall record. The Pirates garnered bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season and earned their 10th bowl victory in program history with a 53-29 win over Coastal Carolina in the TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl.
East Carolina Records, Streaks and Trends
• Earned bowl eligibility for the second-straight year under Mike Houston in 2022 (first since 2012-14)
• Won its first bowl game since 2013 with a 53-29 victory over Coastal Carolina (Birmingham Bowl)
• Has won 9 of last 14 non-conference games dating back to 2019
• Set single-season record for average yards per play (6.6) surpassing 6.5 ypp in 2014
• Led the NCAA in fewest fumbles lost (2) and turnovers lost (7)
• Did not have an offensive turnover in seven-straight contests to close the 2022 season – the longest streak in program history
• Did not have an offensive turnover in nine of 13 games (most games without in program history – season)
• Allowed only 13 fourth-quarter offensive touchdowns in the last 19 games dating back to 2021
• Surrendered just 28 points in the fourth quarter in the last six contests
• Outscored its opponents 215-171 in the second half and in overtime in 2022 (+44)
• Forced at least one turnover in 29 of the last 31 games (and in 40 of the last 45)
• Snapped more offensive plays than their 13 opponents (906-861/+45)
Saturday’s matchup against Michigan will mark the first for East Carolina on the gridiron. The Pirates and Wolverines have met five times in baseball (ECU leads 5-0) while also squaring off on five occasions in softball (Michigan leads 5-0).
Against Non-Conference Opponents
The Pirates have produced a 43-59 (.422) 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.
Drawing First Blood
East Carolina owns an 11-6 (.647) record since 2000 when meeting current Division I (FBS) opponents for the first time. After winning five straight, the Pirates have dropped two of their last three contests.
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).
Comparing 10-Year, 13-Game Results
East Carolina’s 53-29 Birmingham Bowl win over Coastal Carolina gave the Pirates an 8-5 overall record, which marked the second-straight winning season under head coach Mike Houston. The Pirates matched their second-best record in the last 10 years (9-3/2013, 8-5/2012, 8-5/2014).
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).
Versus Associated Press (AP) Ranked Opponents
East Carolina is 13-64-1 all-time against opponents ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll (at the time the game was played). The Pirates’ last victory against an AP-ranked squad occurred Sept. 20, 2014, in a 70-41 win over North Carolina at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
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).
East Carolina makes its home debut on Saturday, Sept. 9, when Marshall visits Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for a non-conference contest. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. and the game will air live on ESPNU.