ECU looks for fourth straight win at Central Florida

ECU Pirates

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GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina will play the first road contest of its 2021 American Athletic Conference schedule when the Pirates face UCF Saturday in Orlando beginning at 6 p.m.

ECU will try to post its first-ever four-game overall AAC win streak when it meets UCF while also extending its in-season run to four in a row for the first time since the 2014 squad tallied six-straight victories from Sept. 13 to Oct. 23.

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The matchup against the Knights will open a two-game road swing for the Pirates, who will enjoy a bye week before traveling to Houston on Oct. 23 and returning to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for a nationally-televised Thursday night battle against South Florida on Oct. 28.

EAST CAROLINA RECORDS AND STREAKS

Has forced at least one turnover in 13-straight games (and in 24 of the last 25) …
Has netted at least one interception in the last seven games (most since 2013) …
Has tallied a total of 38.0 TLFs in its first five games (at least 7.0 in four contests) …
Has converted 15 of 16 of its 2021 redzone visits into points (10 TDs, 5 FGs) …
Will be looking for its first 2-0 American Athletic Conference start since 2014 …
Has split its last four American Athletic Conference road openers …

THE SERIES
East Carolina leads 10-9 … While the Knights have won the last five, the Pirates enjoyed a pair of earlier four-game winning streaks (1991-96, 2006-09) … ECU and UCF have split eight (4-4) matchups in Orlando.

MIKE HOUSTON AGAINST THE KNIGHTS
Including Mike Houston’s prior nine-year tenure as a head coach at Lenoir-Rhyne, The Citadel, James Madison (and East Carolina), Saturday’s game will mark only his third meeting against UCF.

GUS MALZAHN AGAINST THE PIRATES
While Saturday’s contest will be Gus Malzahn’s first against East Carolina as a head coach, he did face the Pirates once as an assistant … While serving as Tulsa’s assistant head coach and co-offensive coordinator, ECU pinned a 27-24 loss on the Golden Hurricane in the 2008 Conference USA Championship Game … A swarming Pirates’ defense forced seven turnovers – five coming on interceptions – and held the nation’s top-rated offense to 25 points and nearly 200 yards under its average (coming into the contest).

LAST MEETING IN ORLANDO
UCF 41, East Carolina 28 (Oct. 19, 2019 @Spectrum Stadium, Orlando, Fla.) UCF scored on its first five possession and piled up 418 yards of total offense to build a 35-3 first-half lead before holding off a spirited East Carolina comeback attempt on the way to a 41-28 AAC victory at Spectrum Stadium … The Pirates regrouped at intermission and outscored the Knights 22-6 and held the edge in total yards (303-193), rushing yards (105-86) and passing yards (198-107) in the final 30 minutes … ECU quarterback Holton Ahlers surpassed the 300-yard passing mark for the first time of the season, connecting on 23-of-37 throws for 313 yards and one touchdown.

COMPARING 10-YEAR, FIVE-GAME RESULTS
East Carolina’s 52-29 win against Tulane improved the Pirates’ record to 3-2 for the second time in the last three years (2019) … A victory over UCF would give ECU a 4-2 ledger for the first time since 2013 (its second-best record in the last 10 seasons), but a loss against the Knights would also mark the second time in the last three years the Pirates opened a year at 3-3 (also 2019)

ON THE ROAD
Since becoming a conference member in 1997, East Carolina is 60-95 (.387) when playing away from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium … The Pirates have a 1-1 road slate in 2021 after falling to Appalachian State in the season opener before rallying to down Marshall 42-38 on Sept. 18 … From an American Athletic Conference standpoint, ECU has dropped 11 of the last 15, but on the flipside, 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 in Tampa before routing Temple 28-3 in the road finale last Nov. 21 in Philadelphia.

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 9,018,978 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 2,747,689 fans.

SHUTOUT-FREE … 292 AND COUNTING
ECU will enter the UCF contest with an active streak of 292 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 292-game run currently ranks among the Top 10 nationally (Florida is first with 415).

CHARTING THE PIRATES MONTH-BY-MONTH
In all, East Carolina is 3-3-0 in August, 131-122-1 in September, 164-164-4 in October, 142-132-5 in November, 9-10-0 in December and 1-4-0 in January … Despite its win over Tulane to open October this season, ECU has dropped 16 of its last 20 games dating back to 2015 … On the road, ECU has suffered setbacks in six of the last seven outings since 2016 (win at USF in 2020) … In terms of conference action, ECU has lost 10 of the last 12 … Overall, the Pirates are 8-15 vs. the AAC in October … The Pirates’ last perfect month of October was in 2014 – three-straight wins (SMU, USF and UConn).

A STARTERS’ LOG
WR Tyler Snead (20 games) and OLB Jireh Wilson (14) own the program’s longest starting streaks on offense and defense entering the UCF contest.

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.

TRIPLE-DIGIT MAGIC
Keaton Mitchell (124/CIN, 103/TEM in 2020 and 135/MAR, 125/CSU, 222/TLN in 2021) became the first Pirates’ RB in eight years to post five career 100-yard rushing contests when he eclipsed triple digits vs. the Green Wave … Tay Cooper (8) last accomplished the feat by logging four each in 2012 and 2013 … Rahjai Harris (115/USF, 172/Navy, 118/ TLS in 2020) currently has three, so his next century mark outing will be the first time since 2003 that ECU will feature teammates with at least four each (Marvin Townes/5, Art Brown/4) … Individually, Dominique Lindsay posted five during ECU’s C-USA championship season in 2009 for the most recent single-season best.

LIVING A PIRATES’ LIFE
After having its 11-game streak with at least one takeaway (longest since ’09) snapped during the ’20 season opener vs. UCF, East Carolina’s defense started a new run by generating at least one turnover in the final eighth-straight contests last year … In all, the Pirates will enter this year’s UCF clash having forced a TO in 13 consecutive games, the longest since a 33-game run (from 2007 to 2010).

AMONG TOP PASSING UNITS IN AMERICAN HISTORY
Since joining the AAC 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 (27,829), 2. East Carolina (26,367), 3. UCF (24,471), 4. SMU (23,659), 5. Cincinnati (23,142), 6. Houston (23,063), 7. Tulsa (22,276), 8. Temple (21,295), 9. South Florida (18,878), 10. Tulane (16,626) and 11. Navy (7,487) … However, the Pirates top the league in completions (2,224) and attempts (3,695) … ECU has also accounted for a conference-high 18 400-yard passing games and surpassed the 300-yard mark on 47 occasions during the 85-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 STREAKS
Slot receiver/return specialist Tyler Snead has averaged 120.5 all-purpose yards in his last 10 games (244 vs. Temple alone in ’20) … On offense, Snead has caught at least one pass in 26 consecutive games (dating back to 2019) – tops on the unit and currently the 14th-longest streak at the FBS level.

EXCEEDING THE SPEED LIMIT
Keaton Mitchell currently leads the FBS level in yards per carry average, netting nearly 10 yards per attempt … He has a team-leading eight carries that have surpassed 20 or more yards, four which have eclipsed 60 (88-TD/Marshall, 74-TD/Charleston Southern, 68-TD/Tulane, 62/Tulane).

NO PASSING ZONE
Cornerback Ja’Quan McMillian currently leads all of FBS in three categories – passes defended (16), total interceptions (4) and interceptions per game (0.80) … He currently enjoys streak of picking off a pass in three-straight games (Marshall, Charleston Southern and Tulane), while also netting an INT in the season opener vs. Appalachian State.

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.

FROM THE TREASURE CHEST (post-Tulane)
PK Owen Daff er tallied a career-high 10 points against Tulane and now has 35 this season … WR C.J. Johnson extended streak with at least one reception to 16-straight games (trailing only Tyler Snead’s 26-game run) … TE Ryan Jones set career-highs in receptions (six) and receiving yards (58) … RB Keaton Mitchell’s 222 rushing yards were the most by a Pirate RB since Chris Johnson had 223 against Boise State in the 2007 Hawai’i Bowl … ILB/DE Xavier Smith tallied a unit-best nine tackles (five solo) with a two-yard TFL, but ended his consecutive start streak at 17 (longest among all defenders going into the contest) … He’s booked at least one tackle in 27 consecutive games (multiple in 24 times) … East Carolina’s 17-point edge at the end of the first quarter (17-0) was the largest Pirate lead after the first 15 minutes since joining the American Athletic Conference in 2014 (previous was 14 points against SMU in the 2020 season finale) … ECU’s 310 rushing yards was a season-high and the most since running for 491 at Memphis on Nov. 3, 2007 … The Pirates threw three TD passes against the Green Wave and has now thrown at least one scoring pass in 40 of last 48 games.

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