Pirates back in action, look to get victory Saturday at Houston

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GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina will try improve its American Athletic Conference record to 2-1 this season when it meets Houston at 4 p.m. Saturday inside TDECU Stadium.

The matchup against the Cougars will also close out a two-game road swing for the Pirates, who will return to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for back-to-back home tilts beginning with a prime time nationally-televised Thursday night battle against South Florida on Oct. 28 before welcoming Temple to Greenville on Nov. 6.

East Carolina has captured four of seven all-time contests at UH and will try to match its highest overall win total since 2015 when it squares off against the Cougars.

EAST CAROLINA RECORDS AND STREAKS

Has forced at least one turnover in 14-straight games (and in 25 of the last 26) …
Has netted at least one interception in the last eight games (most since nine in 2013) …
Has converted 18 of 20 of its 2021 redzone visits into points (10 TDs, 8 FGs) …
Has won three-straight against teams with winning records (at time game was played) …
Will be looking for its first 2-1 American Athletic Conference start since 2015 …
Has averaged 42.3 points per game in its last three visits to Texas (2015, 2017, 2019) …

THE SERIES
Series tied 7-7 … Oddly, the Pirates have captured four of seven meetings in Houston, but have also dropped four of seven matchups played at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium … Saturday’s battle marks only the third American Athletic Conference clash between the two programs.

MIKE HOUSTON AGAINST THE COUGARS
Including Mike Houston’s prior eight-year tenure as a collegiate head coach at Lenoir-Rhyne, The Citadel, James Madison (and East Carolina), Saturday’s game will mark his first-ever meeting against Houston.

DANA HOLGORSEN AGAINST THE PIRATES
In addition to one meeting as a head coach (see below, West Virginia in 2017), Dana Holgorsen has also squared off against East Carolina on a combined three occasions as an assistant coach on the Texas Tech and Houston staffs … Two of the three meetings were post-season encounters in which the Pirates recorded victories.

ON THE ROAD
Since becoming a conference member in 1997, East Carolina is 60-96 (.385) when playing away from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium … The Pirates have a 1-2 road slate in 2021 after falling to Appalachian State in the season opener before rallying to down Marshall 42-38 on Sept. 18 and dropping a 20-16 decision at UCF two weeks ago … From an American Athletic Conference standpoint, ECU has dropped 12 of the last 16, 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.

BYE WEEK BOUNCE-BACK?
The Pirates haven’t taken full advantage of bye weeks when looking at a 10-year perspective – winning eight of their last 15 contests (but also dropping six of the last seven) following an open week since 2011 … A closer look: 2011 (W/UAB), 2012 (W/TLN), 2013 (W/UNC, W/FIU), 2014 (W/SMU, W/UConn, L/CIN), 2015 (W/UCF), 2016 (L/CIN), 2017 (L/UH), 2018 (L/USF, L/MEM), 2019 (L/UCF, W/UConn) and 2020 (L/Tulsa) … Since the program’s modern era (1965), East Carolina is 31-25 in games after a break.

SHUTOUT-FREE … 293 AND COUNTING
ECU will enter the Houston contest with an active streak of 293 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 293-game run currently ranks among the Top 10 nationally (Florida is first with 417).

CHARTING THE PIRATES MONTH-BY-MONTH
In all, East Carolina is 3-3-0 in August, 131-122-1 in September, 164-165-4 in October, 142-132-5 in November, 9-10-0 in December and 1-4-0 in January … Despite the Pirates’ 1-1 ledger this October, ECU has dropped 16 of its last 21 games dating back to 2015 … On the road, ECU has suffered setbacks in seven of the last eight outings since 2016 (win at USF in 2020) … In terms of conference action, ECU has lost 11 of the last 13 … Overall, the Pirates are 8-16 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 (21 games) and ILB Bruce Bivens (11) own the program’s longest starting streaks on offense and defense entering the Houston matchup.

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. Tulane on Oct. 2 … 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 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 week’s Houston clash having forced a TO in 14 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 (28,507), 2. East Carolina (26,586), 3. UCF (24,806), 4. SMU (23,983), 5. Cincinnati (23,545), 6. Houston (23,351), 7. Tulsa (22,724), 8. Temple (21,445), 9. South Florida (19,033), 10. Tulane (16,840) and 11. Navy (7,594) … However, the Pirates top the league in completions (2,224) and attempts (3,727) … ECU has also accounted for a conference-high 18 400-yard passing games and surpassed the 300-yard mark on 47 occasions during the 86-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 118.2 all-purpose yards in his last 11 games (244 vs. Temple alone in ’20) … On offense, Snead has caught at least one pass in 27 consecutive games (dating back to 2019) – tops on the unit and currently the 14th-longest streak at the FBS level.

LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE
Keaton Mitchell currently stands second at the FBS level in yards per carry average, netting 8.3 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) … 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 currently leads all of FBS in three categories – passes defended (16), total interceptions (four) and interceptions per game (0.67) … 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 season opener vs. Appalachian State.

FROM THE TREASURE CHEST
The meeting at TDECU Stadium marks the fourth different named (city of) Houston venue East Carolina has played in (4-3/TDECU & Robertson Stadium, 0-2/Rice Stadium and 1-0/Astrodome after defeating Texas Tech 40-27 in the 2000 galleryfurniture.com Bowl) … PK Owen Daff er matched a career-high set a week earlier (vs. Tulane) with 10 points against UCF and has now accounted for a team-best 45 this season … ECU’s 310 rushing yards vs. Tulane were the most since running for 491 at Memphis on Nov. 3, 2007 … With QB Holton Ahlers’ 27-yard TD toss to WR Audie Omotosho vs. UCF, ECU has now thrown at least one TD pass in eight-straight games (18 TD strikes overall during the run) … In its last two AAC road games, the Pirates have allowed just a combined six first half points (3/Temple, 3/UCF) … Those three (3) points surrendered by ECU to UCF were the fewest in series history (20 games, since 1991) … 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).

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