Houston pleased with practices as Pirates make final preps for bowl game

ECU Pirates

GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina will make its first bowl appearance since the 2014 season when it faces off against Atlantic Coast Conference member Boston College in the Military Bowl presented by Peraton on Monday, Dec. 27 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md.

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The Pirates will also attempt to secure their eighth triumph, ECU’s highest single-season victory total since 2014. Lastly, East Carolina will try to notch its fifth win in the last six contests when it meets the Eagles, the program’s top season-ending run since capturing six of its last seven to close out the 2013 campaign.

EAST CAROLINA RECORDS AND STREAKS

Has allowed only three 4th-quarter offensive TDs in the last six games …
Has forced at least one turnover in 18 of the last 20 games (and in 29 of the last 32) …
Had +6.4 ppg, +86.7 pypg and +107.0 typg cumulative margins in all eight AAC games …
Had a collective time of possession edge in all eight AAC games (+8:42 avg.) …
Snapped more offensive plays in all eight AAC games (+112 the last five contests) …
Has split its last four games at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (2-2 vs. Navy) …
Has won seven of its last 11 games vs. Atlantic Coast Conference opponents (since 2013) …
Has averaged 508.3 total yards and 330.7 passing yards in its last three bowl games …

THE SERIES
The 2021 Military Bowl presented by Peraton will feature the first-ever meeting (0-0) between Boston College and East Carolina in the sport of football.

HOUSTON VS. BOSTON COLLEGE
Despite Mike Houston’s successful 10-plus-year head coaching career at four institutions, he has never faced Boston College prior to the Military Bowl.

HAFLEY VS. EAST CAROLINA
In addition to Boston College, the Pirates also never competed against Albany (2002-2005), Pittsburgh (2006-2010), Rutgers (2011) and Ohio State (2019) while Jeff Hafley was a member of those staffs.

EAST CAROLINA AGAINST THE ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE
East Carolina has compiled an all-time record of 45-87-1 (.342) against current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference … The Pirates are 13-18 against NC State, 7-15 vs. Virginia Tech, 5-5 vs. Duke, 5-12-1 vs. North Carolina, 4-6 vs. Louisville, 3-6 vs. Syracuse, 2-1 vs. Virginia, 2-2 vs. Pittsburgh, 2-6 vs. Wake Forest, 2-9 vs. Miami and 0-7 vs. Florida State … As previously mentioned, ECU has enjoyed a recent run of relative success against the ACC, winning seven of the last 11 matchups (dating back to Sept. 28, 2013).

THE OWLS: A COMMON 2021 OPPONENT
Both East Carolina and Boston College had Temple on its schedule this season and the net result was similar… The Pirates (45-3) and Eagles (28-3) both kept the Owls out of the endzone for a combined 73-6 win ledger.

MILITARY BOWL … PART I
Maryland 51, East Carolina 20 (Dec. 29, 2010 @RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.) Maryland, playing an emotional last game for head coach Ralph Friedgen, scored on four of its first five second-half possessions to turn a 13-point lead into a 51-20 victory over East Carolina in the 2010 Military Bowl … While the Terrapins used an explosive offensive eff ort in the final 30 minutes, their defense contributed by holding the Pirates to season-lows in rushing yards (32), total yards per play (4.1) and first downs (19) … ECU also did not help itself, committing season-highs in penalties (15), penalty yardage (120) and turnovers (4) … After Dominique Davis connected with Lance Lewis on a 20-yard TD pass to trim the deficit to 23-10 with 9:51 remaining in the third quarter, Maryland’s rushing attack followed by generating 198 yards on just 18 carries the remainder of the contest – an average of 11.0 yards per attempt … Running back Da’Rell Scott, who finished the contest with a game-high 200 yards on just 13 rushes, scored on 61 and 91 yarders to put the game out of reach … The Pirates crossed midfield only twice during their first nine possessions, netting only 37 yards on their longest drive … Lewis caught 11 balls for 137 yards, his fifth triple-digit effort of the season, while Davis completed 35-of-57 passes for 268 yards under first-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.

COMPARING 10-YEAR, 12-GAME RESULTS
East Carolina’s 35-13 loss to Cincinnati in the regular season finale dropped the Pirates’ record to 7-5, which still remained the program’s first winning mark through 12 games since 2014 (8-4) … A triumph over Boston College would give ECU a final slate of 8-5, matching its second-best record in the last 10 years (9-3/2013, 8-5/2012, 8-5/2014 … On the flipside, a loss against the Eagles would be the first time since 2006 that East Carolina completed a campaign with a 7-6 mark.

ON THE ROAD
Since becoming a conference member in 1997, East Carolina is 62-97 (.390) when playing away from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium … The Pirates have a 3-3 road slate in 2021 (wins at Marshall, Memphis and Navy; losses to Appalachian State, UCF and Houston) … From a non-conference standpoint, ECU snapped a seven-game skid when it topped Old Dominion 24-21 on Sept. 28, 2019 but has only played three road non-AAC tilts since (1-2).

THE PIRATE NATION – OVER 9 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 9,121,824 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 2,850,535 fans.

AMONG AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE 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 third in 2021 (trailing only UCF and Cincinnati).

AGAINST NON-CONFERENCE OPPONENTS
The Pirates have produced a 40-58 (.408) regular season non-league record, which includes a 2-2 clip in 2021 … East Carolina fell to Appalachian State and South Carolina to open the season before rallying back to post victories against Marshall and Charleston Southern … 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.

ANYTIME, ANYWHERE
The Pirates have faced off against 17 regular season opponents from “Power 5” conferences in the last nine years … Since 2013, East Carolina has captured wins in nearly half of those (7-10).

SHUTOUT-FREE … 299 AND COUNTING
East Carolina will enter the Boston College contest with an active streak of 299 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 299-game run currently ranks among the Top 10 nationally (Florida is first with 423).

CHARTING THE PIRATES MONTH-BY-MONTH
In all, East Carolina is 3-3-0 in August, 131-122-1 in September, 165-166-4 in October, 145-133-5 in November, 9-10-0 in December and 1-4-0 in January … The Pirates will try to remain somewhat productive in December – a month in which ECU has split its last eight outings (wins vs. Boise State/’07, Tulsa/’08, Houston/’09 and Ohio/’13; losses to Maryland/’10, UL-Lafayette/’12, UCF/’14 and NC State/’18).

A STARTERS’ LOG
QB Holton Ahlers (17 games) and CB Malik Fleming (10) own the program’s longest starting streaks on offense and defense entering the Military Bowl matchup … East Carolina has used 21 different starters on defense in 2021 (17 on offense).

2021 PIRATE GRADUATES (11+5=16)
OL Sean Bailey, ILB Bruce Bivens, WR Cam Burnette, TE Zech Byrd, RB/WR Maceo Donald, OL Bailey Malovic, WR Audie Omotosho, ILB Aaron Ramseur, SAF Warren Saba, WRTyler Snead and P Jonn Young played the entire ’21 season as grads, while QB Holton Ahlers, ILB Myles Berry, CB Nolan Johnson, ILB Xavier Smith and DE/OLB Dre Terry just earned their respective degrees during ECU Commencement Exercises on Dec. 17, 2021.

BAND ON THE RUN
East Carolina’s 1,949-yard rushing total in 2021 marks the program’s fourth-highest regular season clip since 2000 … In addition, the Pirates have posted 10 200-yard rushing contests in the Mike Houston era (2/2019, 5/2020, 3/2021).

TRIPLE-DIGIT MAGIC
Keaton Mitchell (124/CIN, 103/TEM in 2020 and 135/MAR, 125/CSU, 222/TLN, 146/TEM in 2021) became the first Pirates’ RB in eight years to post six career 100-yard rushing contests when he eclipsed triple digits vs. Temple on Nov. 6 … Rahjai Harris tallied his fourth (22-100) vs. USF a week earlier, marking the first time since 2003 that East Carolina features teammates with at least four each (Marvin Townes/5, Art Brown/4) … Individually, Dominique Lindsay posted five in 2009 for the most recent single-season best.

1K FOR KEATON
Keaton 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.

LOOKING FOR MORE LOOT
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 … 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 18 of the last 20 (and 29 of 32) contests.

SWISS ARMY KNIFE & RECEPTION STREAK
Slot receiver/return specialist Tyler Snead has averaged 117.5 all-purpose yards in his last 17 games … On offense, Snead has caught at least one pass in 33 consecutive games (dating back to 2019) – currently the 7th-longest streak at the FBS level.

AMONG SELECT REGULAR SEASON COMPANY
Keaton Mitchell’s 1,132 rushing yards ranks as the third-highest ground total by an East Carolina running back during regular season action trailing only Leonard Henry (1,432/’01) and Chris Johnson (1,200/’07).

BIG PLAY MAGIC
Keaton Mitchell also has a team-leading 12 carries that have surpassed 20 or more yards, five which have eclipsed 50 (88-TD/Marshall, 74-TD/Charleston Southern, 68-TD/ Tulane, 62/Tulane, 57-TD/Temple) … His 222-yard rushing performance vs. Tulane on Oct. 2 were the most by a Pirate RB since first-round draft choice Chris Johnson racked up 223 against Boise State in the 2007 Hawai’i Bowl … Mitchell currently ranks 10th nationally with a 6.5 yards-per-carry average.

NO PASSING ZONE
Cornerback Ja’Quan McMillian continues to lead all of FBS in passes defended (1.75) … He’s already enjoyed a streak of picking off a pass in three-straight games (Marshall, Charleston Southern and Tulane), while also netting INTs vs. Appalachian State and Memphis … In addition, McMillian stands second among Pirate defenders in tackles with 56, was selected as one of 12 semifinalists for the 2021 Paycom Jim Thorpe Award and was named Second-Team All-America by five (5) different organizations/outlets – Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), Associated Press, The Sporting News, The Athletic and Phil Steele Magazine … McMillian’s 5 INTs are the most by a Pirate in single-season play since 2014 (Josh Hawkins) and his 12 career picks are the most all-time since Emmanuel McDaniel (13 from 1992-95) … Also, he stands 2nd nationally in total interceptions and 3rd in interceptions per game (0.4).

A COMEBACK FOR THE AGES
East Carolina put together its biggest fourth-quarter comeback (-17, 38-21 with 7:30 left) in ECU history during Pirates’ 42-38 win at Marshall on Sept. 18 since rallying past NC State 37-34 (-17, 34-17 with 7:26 left) on Jan. 1, 1992 to capture the Peach Bowl at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium … Here’s a list of the top comebacks in Pirate history in the school’s modern day history

MISC… FROM THE TREASURE CHEST
ECU’s 45-3 win (+42) over Temple on Nov. 6 was the Pirates’ biggest AAC victory (by margin) in its membership (since 2014), surpassing a 41-3 (+38) triumph over UConn on 10/29/16 … ECU racked up 310 rushing yards vs. Tulane (the most since running for 491 at Memphis on Nov. 3, 2007) … CB Malik Fleming’s 31-yard interception return for a TD vs. USF was ECU’s second of the season (CB Ja’Quan McMillian vs. CSU), the most Pirate “pick-sixes” in a season since 2015 … TE Shane Calhoun (114/MAR) and TE Ryan Jones (102/TEM) marks first time since 1990 that the Pirates have had at least two 100-yd receiving games by a TE in one season (Luke Fisher had both in ’90 – 112/FSU, 109/UGA) … Jones’ 4 TDs are the most by an Pirate TE since 2015 (Bryce Williams/4) and two shy of ECU’s single-season TE record (6, Luke Fisher in 1990) … Freshman PK Owen Daff er, a two-time AAC Specialist-of-the-Week selection, has tallied a team-high 96 points (19-23 FGs, 39-41 PATs) and drilled a time-expiring, game-winning 54-yard FG to down Navy on his last visit to Annapolis on Nov. 20 … P Luke Larsen (29) ranks as the fourth-oldest player at the FBS level in 2021 (only younger than Vanderbilt TE Tommy Smith/32, Oklahoma State P Tom Hutton/30 and USC P Ben Griffiths/30).

NON-SATURDAY MAYHEM
East Carolina is 21-29 in non-Saturday games since 2000 … Oddly, the Pirates have fared better on the road (14-14; 7-15 at home) … In terms of days (including bowls), ECU is 5-1 on Sundays, 1-1 on Mondays, 2-1 on Tuesdays, 0-3 on Wednesdays, 8-12 on Thursdays and 5-11 on Fridays … Most recently, ECU is 10-14 when deviating from the normal Saturday routine since 2010 … The Pirates’ last Monday outing was a successful one as East Carolina downed Ohio 37-20 on Dec. 23, 2013 in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

STANDING ALONE – FACING RANKED HOME OPPONENTS
East Carolina is the only Group of 5 program nationally which has hosted ranked AP opponents in each of the last five years – 2017 (No. 16 Virginia Tech/No. 18 South Florida), 2018 (No. 10 UCF), 2019 (No. 17 Cincinnati), 2020 (No. 13 UCF) and 2021 (No. 4 Cincinnati) … Troy stood second by welcoming four – 2018 (No. 18/Boise State), 2019 (No. 22/Appalachian State), 2020 (No. 11/Coastal Carolina) and 2021 (No. 24/Louisiana).

LOOKING AHEAD … 250 DAYS AWAY
After facing off against Boston College in the Military Bowl, the Pirates will be back in action 250 days later when they welcome NC State to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for the 2022 season opener … In all, ECU’s ’22 slate offers seven home games – a first since 2018.

EARLY (2022) NATIONAL SIGNING DAY
ECU Head Coach Mike Houston announced the addition of 18 student-athletes to the Pirates’ program during the NCAA’s early signing period on Dec. 15: OG Omari Allen (6-4, 299, Fr., Henderson, N.C.), LB Zakye Barker (5-10, 228, Fr., Norcross, Ga.), CB Isaiah Brown-Murray (5-9, 177, Fr., Huntersville, N.C.), P David Chapeau (6-1, 249, Jr., Athens, Ga./Air Force), SAF Samuel Dankah (6-5, 213, Fr., Lorton, Va.), DE Ja’Maurion Franklin (6-4, 223, Fr., Lake City, S.C.), RB Marlon Gunn Jr. (5-10, 201, Fr., Baton Rouge, La.), SAF Jordan Huff (6-2, 185, Soph., Madison, Ga./Hutchinson CC), DT J.D. Lampley (6-2, 293, Fr., Rockingham, N.C.), OG Ethan Lang (6-2, 310, Fr., Pine Brook, N.J.), DT C.J. Mims (6-0, 302, Fr., New Bern, N.C.), DT Shaundre Mims (6-0, 276, Gr., Vanceboro, N.C./ Charleston Southern), OT Parker Moorer (6-4, 313, Soph., Charlotte, N.C./West Virginia), CB Shavon Revel (6-2, 170, Soph., Louisburg, N.C./Louisburg CC), OT Jacob Sacra (6-5, 315, Fr., Madison, Va.), OT Eli Samples (6-3, 283, Fr., Cumming, Ga.), WR Brock Spalding (5-10, 180, Fr., Lorton, Va.), RB Nemo Squire (5-6, 189, Fr., Darlington, S.C.).

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