ECU opens conference play, looks for third straight win against Tulane

ECU Pirates

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GREENVILLE, N.C. – It’s Homecoming on the ECU campus as the Pirates welcome Tulane to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Saturday for their American Athletic Conference opener. Game time is 3:30 p.m.

East Carolina will be looking to post both its first overall and AAC three-game win streak since 2014. ECU will begin league play at home for the second-straight season and the fourth time in its eighth year of membership.

The contest also marks ECU’s last home outing until Oct. 28 (South Florida) as the Pirates will battle UCF (Oct. 9) and Houston (Oct. 23) in back-to-back road tilts with a bye week in between (Oct. 16).

EAST CAROLINA RECORDS AND STREAKS

Has forced at least one turnover in 12-straight games (and in 23 of the last 24) …
Has netted at least one interception in the last six games (most since 2014) …
Has converted 10 of 11 of its 2021 redzone visits into points (and 17 of 19 in the last 5 games) …
Has tallied a total of 41.0 TLFs and 12.0 sacks in its last six games …
Has averaged 44.2 yards per punt so far in 2021 (highest first four-game average since 2014) …
Has won eight of 10 games against Tulane at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium …
Has won 12 of its last 14 Homecoming games …

THE SERIES
East Carolina leads 11-6 … The Pirates have won six of the last 10 (and 10 of the last 15) meetings … ECU is 8-2 against the Green Wave in Greenville, but Tulane has won four of seven matchups in New Orleans.

MIKE HOUSTON AGAINST THE GREEN WAVE
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 second meeting against Tulane.

FRITZ AGAINST THE PIRATES
Fourth meeting (2017-2018, 2020; see above) … ECU never competed against Central Missouri State (1997-2009), Sam Houston State (2012-2013) or Georgia Southern (2014-2015) while Willie Fritz headed those programs.

FRITZ AGAINST HOUSTON
In addition to sharing success at the NCAA Division II and FCS levels early during their coaching careers, ECU’s Mike Houston and Tulane’s Willie Fritz have stood on opposite sidelines as head coaches twice.

THIRD-QUARTER QUANDARIES
The Pirates have been held to just three combined third-quarter points in their last five meetings vs. Tulane, which included scoreless periods during 2013, 2017, 2018 and 2020 losses – two of which were overtime setbacks.

TULANE, STATE OF LOUISIANA COACHING “CONNECTIONS”
Two members of East Carolina’s current full-time football staff spent time with collegiate programs in the state of Louisiana, including one who worked directly with the Green Wave – director of football administration Dale Steele served as tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator at Tulane from 1980 to 1982 … The other is Pirates’ cornerbacks coach Steve Ellis, who spent six years at alma mater Nicholls State (FCS) coaching on the defensive side of the ball (safeties, linebacker and coordinator) from 2003 to 2008 after a stellar playing career with the Colonels in Thibodeaux, which is located approximately 60 miles southwest of New Orleans.

FACING THE BAYOU STATE
The Pirates have posted a 20-17 (.541) all-time record against programs from Louisiana … East Carolina is 11-6 against Tulane, 4-2 vs. Louisiana Tech, 4-7 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (formerly Southwestern Louisiana), 1-1 vs. Louisiana-Monroe (formerly Northeast Louisiana) and 0-1 vs. LSU.

AT DOWDY-FICKLEN STADIUM
East Carolina’s all-time record at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is 193-110 (.637) … 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 1-1 clip this year, a 1-3 record last year 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) … Overall, ECU has posted 39 winning campaigns at DFS since 1963.

THE PIRATE NATION – NEARLY 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 8,985,503 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 2,714,214 fans.

WELCOME BACK … IT’S HOMECOMING
The Pirates have tallied an overall 53-12 (.815) record when playing Homecoming tilts, dating back to 1955 (13-0 win over Elon) … East Carolina has won 12 of its last 14 Homecoming games, but has also dropped its last two (UCF/2018, USF/2019) before not celebrating the annual festivity in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SHUTOUT-FREE … 291 AND COUNTING
ECU will enter the Tulane contest with an active streak of 291 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 291-game run currently ranks among the Top 10 nationally (Florida is first with 414).

CHARTING THE PIRATES MONTH-BY-MONTH
In all, East Carolina is 3-3-0 in August, 131-122-1 in September, 163-164-4 in October, 142-132-5 in November, 9-10-0 in December and 1-4-0 in January … The Pirates are trying to regain their October productivity, a month in which ECU has dropped 16 of its last 19 games dating back to 2015 … At home, ECU has suffered six-straight setbacks (and lost eight of the last 11 since 2015; wins vs. BYU, UConn & Tulsa) … In terms of conference action, ECU has lost 10 of the last 11 (and 15 of the last 17, also dating back to the 2015 campaign) … Overall, the Pirates are 7-15 vs. the AAC in October.

A STARTERS’ LOG
WR Tyler Snead (19 games) and ILB Xavier Smith (17) own the program’s longest starting streaks on offense and defense entering the Tulane 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 in 2021) became the first Pirates’ RB in eight years to post four career 100-yard rushing contests when he eclipsed triple digits vs. the Buccaneers … 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.

DEFENSIVE LEADERSHIP STABILITY
From a clean record-keeping standpoint, it’s perhaps easier to say that East Carolina is one of the few FBS programs to employ four different defensive coordinators in the last five seasons … However, it would be more accurate to state the Pirates might be the only team to have used five plus DCs since opening the 2017 campaign.

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 the Tulane clash having forced a TO in 12 consecutive games.

SWISS ARMY KNIFE & RECEPTION STREAKS
Slot receiver/return specialist Tyler Snead has averaged 123.2 all-purpose yards in his last nine games (244 vs. Temple alone in ’20) … On offense, Snead has caught at least one pass in 25 consecutive games (dating back to 2019) – tops on the unit and currently the 14th-longest streak at the FBS level … Outside receiver C.J. Johnson currently stands second with a reception in 15-straight outings.

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 (27,524), 2. East Carolina (26,065), 3. UCF (24,293), 4. SMU (23,358), 5. Cincinnati (22,845), 6. Houston (22,802), 7. Tulsa (22,018), 8. Temple (20,973), 9. South Florida (18,655), 10. Tulane (16,346) and 11. Navy (7,429) … However, the Pirates top the league in completions (2,202) and attempts (3,661) … ECU has also accounted for a conference-high 18 400-yard passing games and surpassed the 300-yard mark on 46 occasions during the 84-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.

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.

FROM THE TREASURE CHEST (vs. Charleston Southern & beyond)
TEAM NOTES:
ECU had its streak of 10-straight successful redzone scores snapped in the third quarter on Ahlers’ interception (finished contest 2-for-3) … The Pirates accounted for one TD pass vs. the Buccaneers and have now thrown at least one scoring pass in six-straight games and in 39 of last 47 outings … The last time East Carolina completed a game without a TD toss was at No. 7 Cincinnati (11/13/20) … During ECU’s 12-game run with at least one takeaway, the Pirates have racked up a total of 26 during the span (15/interceptions, 15 fumble recoveries) … Malik Fleming’s block of a CSU field goal attempt was the first for a Pirate in 55 games (last done by Justin Brown vs. Cincinnati on Oct. 22, 2016) … In terms of overall blocks, the knock-down was the first since Blake Proehl got in the way of a Georgia State punt in Atlanta on Oct. 3, 2020 … ECU’s 24 first half points were a season-high and the most since scoring 45 in the first half against SMU in the 2020 season finale … East Carolina’s 14-0 first-quarter deficit was the most in the first 15 minutes since an identical score vs. Georgia State.

INDIVIDUAL NOTES: OL Trent Holler (center) made his first career start (in place of Avery Jones) … RB Keaton Mitchell scored his sixth career TD (fourth rushing TD) in the second quarter on a 74-yard run before finishing with 154 all-purpose yards (125 rush, 24 receiving, 5 kickoff return), ranking first on the team with 502 in 2021 … He’s also caught at least one pass in 12 of 13 career games (multiple seven times) … PK Owen Daff er was 4-of-4 on PATs and 1-of-1 FGs to tally seven points on the night (25 this season) … Overall, he has made 4-of-5 FGs (2/ASU, 1/SC, 1/CSU) and 13-of-14 PATs 2021 (1/ASU, 2/SC, 6/MAR, 4/CSU) … Back-up QB Mason Garcia scored on a three-yard run in the second quarter (his first offensive appearance of the year), which was his second career rushing TD (other was 3-yarder vs. Navy in 2020) … WR C.J. Johnson hauled down three passes for 95 yards and caught first TD throw of the season (11th career) on a 60-yarder in the second quarter …He has multiple catches in all four games this season and has recorded at least one reception in 24 of 25 career games (multiple 19 times) … CB Ja’Quan McMillian booked 10 tackles (seven solo), which tied his career-high (10 vs. ASU in the 2021 opener) … He also picked off his third pass of the season (10th career) in the third quarter, returning it 23 yards for a TD, and now has intercepted a pass in three of four games – one each in the last two games to become the first Pirate since Corey Seargent with picks in consecutive games (2018 vs. ODU and Temple) … McMillian also added a career-high five pass breakups, a TFL and has now logged at least one tackle in all 25 career games (multiple 22 times) … In addition to blocking a CSU fi eld goal attempt in the fourth quarter, CB Malik Fleming matched a career-high with five tackles (four solo) and tallied a pair of pass breakups … DL Immanuel Hickman tied career-high with seven stops (three solo) and booked a career-best four TFLs for minus 14 yards, two of which were sacks (-10 yards) … ILB Bruce Bivens booked six tackles (four solo) and has now registered at least stop in 39 of 47 games (multiple 36 times) … He’s also contributed at least a half TFL in 14 of 47 career contests (1.5 for -7 yards vs. the Bucs), which included a six-yard sack … DL/OLB/ILB Xavier Smith recorded four stops (two solo) with a pass breakup and has now booked at least one tackle in 26 consecutive games (multiple in 23 times) … WR/RS Tyler Snead led the team with 159 all-purpose yards (60 receiving, 70 kickoff returns, 34 punt returns and -5 rushing), while catching four passes and moving into a tie for fifth place on ECU’s all-time receptions chart (152) with Jason Nichols (1994-97) … He’s hauled in at least one reception in 27 of 29 contests (multiple 25 times) and racked up 100 or more all-purpose yards on 14 occasions (1/2018, 6/2019, 4/2020, 3/2021) and 200-plus on three occasions (2/2019, 1/2020) … P Jonn Young punted seven times for 317 yards (45.3 avg.) with five boots landing inside the opponents 20 yards line – three inside the 10 to earn Ray Guy Punter of the Week (national) honors.

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