ECU hits the road again, looks for sixth win of season against Memphis

ECU Pirates

Ryan Jones (ECU Sports Information photo)

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GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina will try to extend its American Athletic Conference winning streak to three in a row – the Pirates’ longest run of single-season success since 2014 – when it visits Memphis for a noon matchup Saturday.

ECU will also attempt to post its fourth victory in the last five meetings against the Tigers at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and secure its highest overall single-season win total since 2014. The tilt against Memphis opens a two-game road swing for the Pirates, who will travel to Navy next week before hosting Cincinnati to close out the 2021 regular season.

EAST CAROLINA RECORDS AND STREAKS

Has posted shutouts in eight of the last 10 quarters (0 TDs in the last six quarters) …
Has forced at least one turnover in 16 of the last 17 games (and in 27 of the last 29) …
Has allowed only 8.5 points per game in its last two contests …
Has surrendered just a 13% success rate on third down in its last two games (3-of-23) …
Has converted 28 of 31 of its 2021 redzone visits into points (17 TDs, 11 FGs) …
Has averaged 248.5 rushing yards per game in its last two outings (251/USF, 246/TEM) …
Has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 11-straight games (24 TD strikes in span) …
Looking to guarantee its first .500 or better single-season AAC record since 2014 …
Looking to post successive wins over Temple for the first time since 1994-95 …

THE SERIES
East Carolina leads Memphis 15-8 in the all-time series which dates back to 1990 … The Pirates, who have won seven of the last nine contests, also hold a 7-5 edge in games played in the Bluff City.

HOUSTON VS. THE TIGERS & SILVERFIELD VS. THE PIRATES
Saturday’s clash will be Mike Houston’s first-ever against Memphis in 10-plus seasons as a head coach … While Ryan Silverfield will also be facing East Carolina for the fi rst time as a head coach, he does have four (2-2) prior meetings against the Pirates as a member of the UCF and Memphis staff s dating back to 2006 … He was 0-2 as a Knights graduate assistant (2006-07) before a 2-0 mark as the Tigers’ deputy head coach (2017-18).

COMPARING 10-YEAR, NINE GAME RESULTS
East Carolina’s 45-3 victory over Temple improved the Pirates’ record to 5-4, the program’s first winning mark through nine games since 2014 (6-3) … A triumph over Memphis would give ECU a 6-4 ledger, making the Pirates bowl-eligible for the first time since that same season – 2014 (Birmingham Bowl) … On the flipside, a loss against the Memphis would be the first time in 23 years East Carolina would be .500 (5-5) after 10 contests, matching the 1998 Pirates.

ON THE ROAD
Since becoming a conference member in 1997, East Carolina is 60-97 (.382) when playing away from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium … The Pirates have a 1-3 road slate in 2021 (win at Marshall; losses to Appalachian State, UCF and Houston) … From an American Athletic Conference standpoint, ECU has dropped 13 of the last 17, but on the flipside, the Pirates posted two “away” league triumphs in the same season last year for the first time since 2015 after downing USF 44-24 in the road opener before dismissing Temple 28-3 in the road finale.

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 9,083,810 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 2,812,521 fans.

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.

SHUTOUT-FREE … 296 AND COUNTING
East Carolina will enter the Memphis contest with an active streak of 296 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 296-game run currently ranks among the Top 10 nationally (Florida is first with 420).

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, 143-132-5 in November, 9-10-0 in December and 1-4-0 in January … The Pirates continue November play against Memphis, a month in which East Carolina has lost 16 of its last 23 contests (and 19 of 28 since the 2013 campaign) … On the road, ECU has dropped 11 of the last 15, but will look to make three wins in its last four outings after downing UConn (’19), falling to Cincinnati (’20) and routing Temple (’20) in its last trio of November “away” tilts … Overall, the Pirates are 9-19 vs. the AAC in Month 11.

A STARTERS’ LOG
QB Holton Ahlers (14 games) and CB Ja’Quan McMillian (12) own the program’s longest starting streaks on offense and defense entering the Memphis matchup … IR Tyler Snead’s 22-game run came to an end vs. USF (ECU opened the contest in a double TE set), while ILB Bruce Bivens’ 13 game streak was halted against Temple.

2021 PIRATE GRADUATES (11)
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, WR Tyler Snead, P Jonn Young.

RUSHING TO PROGRESS
East Carolina’s 1,548-yard rushing total in 2021 marks the program’s fifth-highest nine-game 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.

THE 1K MILESTONE
Keaton Mitchell will also enter the Memphis contest needing just 98 rushing yards to become the first East Carolina running back since 2013 to rack up 1,000 in a single season … In all, 16 Pirates have eclipsed the four-digit 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 last week … 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 16 of the last 17 and 27 of the last 29 contests.

AMONG TOP PASSING UNITS IN AMERICAN HISTORY
Since joining the American Athletic Conference in 2014, the Pirates stand second in passing yards over a combined seven-plus year period despite utilizing nine starting quarterbacks, four offensive coordinators and three head coaches: 1. Memphis (29,154), 2. East Carolina (27,287), 3. UCF (25,344), 4. SMU (24,988), 5. Houston (24,317), 6. Cincinnati (24,222), 7. Tulsa (23,038), 8. Temple (21,852), 9. South Florida (19,619), 10. Tulane (17,314) and 11. Navy (7,728) … However, the Pirates top the league in completions (2,304) and attempts (3,824) … ECU has also accounted for a conference-high 18 400-yard passing games and surpassed the 300-yard mark on 47 occasions during the 88-game span … On a related note, the top two receivers in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision history by career receptions – Zay Jones (399 from 2013-16) and Justin Hardy (387 from 2011-2014) – are former East Carolina players.

SWISS ARMY KNIFE & RECEPTION STREAK
Slot receiver/return specialist Tyler Snead has averaged 112.7 all-purpose yards in his last 14 games (244 vs. Temple alone in ’20) … On offense, Snead has caught at least one pass in 30 consecutive games (dating back to 2019) – tops on the unit and currently the 10th-longest streak at the FBS level.

LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE
Keaton Mitchell currently stands first at the FBS level in yards per carry average, netting 7.39 yards per attempt … He has a team-leading 11 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.

NO PASSING ZONE
Cornerback Ja’Quan McMillian continues to lead all of FBS in passes defended and stands 3rd in total interceptions (4) and 4th in interceptions per game (0.44) … He’s already enjoyed a streak of picking off a pass in three-straight games (Marshall, Charleston Southern and Tulane), while also netting an INT in the opener vs. Appalachian State … In addition, McMillian co-leads all Pirate defenders in tackles with 46 and was selected as one of 12 semifinalists for the 2021 Paycom Jim Thorpe Award on Oct. 25.

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.

MISC… FROM THE TREASURE CHEST
ECU’s 45-3 win (+42) over Temple is 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) before following up with 251 (USF) and 246 (TEM) in the last two weeks – an average of 248.5 ypg … With QB Holton Ahlers’ three TD tosses vs. Temple, ECU has now thrown at least one scoring pass in 11-straight games (24 TD strikes overall during the run) … 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).

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