GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina closes out a brief two-game homestand Saturday night against American Athletic Conference opponent UCF inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and the contest will air on ESPNU with John Schriffin (play-by-play) and Rene Ingoglia (analyst) handling the broadcast duties.

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ECU is under the direction of fourth-year head coach Mike Houston.

The Pirates (4-3, 2-2 AAC) celebrated Homecoming in style last Saturday, notching a 47-45 quadruple-overtime triumph over Memphis in what was the longest game in program history. Holton Ahlers threw for 304 yards while Keaton Mitchell tallied 149 rushing yards and set career highs in both carries (29) and rushing touchdowns (three). Isaiah Winstead added 154 aerial yards and a receiving score to East Carolina’s offensive ledger.

Julius Wood earned AAC Defensive Player of the Week accolades after returning an interception for a touchdown and logging a career-high 11 tackles (six solo). Mitches was also tabbed to the league’s weekly honor roll.

UCF (5-1, 2-0 AAC) rolls into Greenville having dispatched Temple 70-13 one week ago. Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee passed for 373 yards and four touchdowns while scoring three rushing touchdowns and tallying 37 yards on seven carries.

East Carolina Records, Streaks and Trends

  • Has won six of its last nine AAC games
  • Has allowed only nine fourth-quarter offensive touchdowns in the last 13 games
  • Has outscored its opponents 122-93 in the second half and overtime this season
  • Has forced at least one turnover in 24 of the last 27 games (and 35 of the last 39)
  • Stands 18th nationally in time of possession, averaging 32:41 per contest in 2022
  • Has snapped more offensive plays than its seven opponents (504-460/+44)

The Series
The two teams enter the weekend having split the all-time series at 10 wins apiece. While the Knights have won the last six, the Pirates enjoyed a pair of earlier four-game win streaks (1991-96, 2006-09). ECU has claimed victories in six of 11 matchups in Greenville.

Mike Houston Against The Knights
Including Mike Houston’s prior nine-year tenure as a head coach at Lenoir-Rhyne, The Citadel and James Madison, Saturday’s game will mark his fourth meeting against UCF as he owns a 1-2 record against the Knights (all as head coach at East Carolina).

Gus Malzahn Against The Pirates
Saturday’s contest will be Gus Malzahn’s second against East Carolina as a head coach. He faced 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 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 (Oct. 9, 2021)
Sophomore running back Mark-Antony Richards capped an 11-play, 64-yard drive with a game-winning one-yard scoring run with 23 seconds remaining to lift UCF to a 20-16 American Athletic Conference win over East Carolina at the Bounce House. Richards’ plunge was just one of three touchdowns scored during a defensive-dominated contest that featured a 3-3 halftime deadlock and a combined five field goals. The Pirates erased a 10-6 deficit – the Knights’ only lead of the game until Richards’ deciding rush – on Holton Ahlers’ 27-yard TD pass to Audie Omotosho with 2:43 left in the third quarter. ECU’s Owen Daffer, who was a perfect three-of-three on field goal tries during the tilt, nailed a 34-yarder with 7:01 to play in the fourth period to extend the Pirates’ lead to 16-10. UCF answered with a 40-yard Daniel Obarski three-pointer on its next drive to trim the margin to three (16-13) with 5:06 to play before the Knights’ defense stiffened by limiting East Carolina to only one yard and a three-and out on the Pirates’ subsequent possession. Taking over at its own 36-yard line, UCF used a 12-yard pass from Mikey Keene to Richards to convert a critical 4th-and-8 play at the ECU 43 to sustain the game-winning march. The two teams played to a near statistical draw as East Carolina out-gained the Knights by one, 360-359. UCF, playing without injured All-America candidate Dillon Gabriel at quarterback, recorded its sixth-straight win over the Pirates despite posting its lowest scoring total (against ECU) since 2015. The Knights also limited ECU leading rusher Keaton Mitchell, who had reached triple digits in three-straight contests prior to the matchup, to just 65 yards on 17 carries (3.8 ypc).

Memphis Leftovers (Team)
East Carolina improved to 17-8 all time against Memphis and 9-3 in Greenville … Defeated Memphis in overtime for the second-straight season … The Pirates played their longest game in school history (four overtimes), topping the three-overtime 54-48 road win over Houston in 2002 … Overcame a 17-point deficit (17-0), tying the fourth-largest comeback in program history. The Pirates also rallied from 17 points down to defeat Marshall on the road last season … ECU improved to 55-12 in Homecoming contests, including a 3-0 mark versus Memphis … ECU had a 100-yard rusher and receiver in the same contest for the second time this year.

Memphis Leftovers (Players)
Ahlers completed 26 of 34 attempts for 304 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions … Thrown at least one TD pass in 38 of 49 career games with his three-yard score in the second quarter … For his career, he has accounted for 107 TDs (86 passing, 21 rushing) … With one touchdown pass, Ahlers tied Shane Carden for the program career record … Produced the 16th 300-yard passing game of his career and second of the campaign … Mitchell registered a career-high three rushing touchdowns, ending the game with a squad-best 149 yards on 29 rushes … Posted his ninth career 100-yard effort and third of the season … Winstead notched his third 100-yard receiving effort of the season, racking up a team-high 154 yards on nine catches … Julius Wood turned in the first “pick six” for the Pirates since Malik Fleming against South Florida Oct. 28, 2021 … He also logged a career-high 11 tackles … Malik Fleming recorded his first interception of the season and the fourth of his career.

Band On The Run
East Carolina is averaging 165.7 rushing yards per game heading into the UCF contest. Spreading that over a 12-game season (1,988), this year’s Pirates would have the fifth-most yards in program history since 2001. A year ago, ECU totaled 1,949 yards on the ground marking the program’s fourth-highest regular season clip since 2000. In addition, the Pirates have posted 11 200-yard rushing contests in the Mike Houston era (2/2019, 5/2020, 3/2021, 1/2022).

Comparing 10-Year, Seven-Game Results
East Carolina’s thrilling win over Memphis gave the Pirates a .500 or better record for the third time in the last 10 years and a 4-3 ledger for the first time in Mike Houston’s four-year tenure. A victory over UCF would push ECU to 5-3 or better for the first time since 2014, but a loss would be the third time since 2013 the squad would be .500.

At Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium
East Carolina’s record at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is 199-113 (.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 4-2 clip in 2021, a 1-3 record two years ago 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 40 winning campaigns at DFS since 1963.

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 9,330,710 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 3,059,421 fans.

Among Top Passing Units In American History
Since joining the AAC in 2014, the Pirates stand second in passing yards over a combined eight-plus year period despite utilizing nine starting quarterbacks, four offensive coordinators and three head coaches: 1. Memphis (34,904), 2. East Carolina (30,397), 3. SMU (27,853), 4. UCF (27,650), 5. Houston (27,233), 6. Cincinnati (27,117), 7. Tulsa (26,019), 8. Temple (23,460), 9. South Florida (21,528), 10. Tulane (19,789) and 11. Navy (8,579). However, the Pirates top the league in completions (2,564) and attempts (4209). ECU has also accounted for a conference-high 20 400-yard passing games and surpassed the 300-yard mark on 52 occasions during the 97-game span. The top two receivers in NCAA FBS history by career receptions – Zay Jones (399 from 2013-16) and Justin Hardy (387 from 2011-2014) – are former ECU players.

12K-1K Club Membership
Ahlers is the lone active FBS quarterback who has passed for 12,000+ yards and rushed for over 1,000 for his (overall career) and one of two that is 10K/1K. He is also the only active FBS quarterback with over 13,000 total yards.

Up Next
East Carolina steps out of AAC play, traveling to future Big 12 Conference member BYU for a rare Friday night game. The Pirates and Cougars will match up on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. ET at picturesque Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah.