Friday, September 10, 2010

PREVIEW: Tigers at East Carolina

Posted By on Fri, Sep 10, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Saturday, 11 a.m. (CSS)

• Both the Tigers and Pirates gave up 49 points in their season-openers last weekend . . . but East Carolina actually won. In a game that saw 12 lead changes and a combined offensive outburst of 1,117 yards, ECU beat Tulsa, 51-49, when Justin Jones hauled in a 33-yard Hail Mary pass from Dominique Davis as time expired at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. East Carolina finished the game with 538 yards of total offense.

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• Like Memphis, East Carolina is in its first season under a new coach: Ruffin McNeill. The Pirates have won each of the last two Conference USA championship games, beating Tulsa in 2008 and Houston last season. ECU finished 2009 with a record of 9-5. The Pirates’ only loss in C-USA play last season came at SMU. They lost the 2010 Liberty Bowl (on January 2nd) to Arkansas, 20-17, in overtime.

• The Tigers gave up 569 yards in the blowout loss at Mississippi State, and accumulated only 237 on offense (just 41 rushing). If there’s a silver lining, it may be the variety of receiving options quarterbacks Cannon Smith and Ryan Williams have. Despite a total of only 20 pass completions, 10 different Tigers caught at least one. Junior Jermaine McKenzie led the way with five grabs for 45 yards.

• Tiger punter Tom Hornsey certainly did his job in Starkville, averaging 48.7 yards on nine kicks. (For some perspective, East Carolina and Tulsa combined to punt only seven times in their game.)

• East Carolina owns a 12-6 lead in its series with the Tigers, dating back to their first meeting in 1990. ECU has won the last four contests, averaging 39.7 points per game. On a dreary Tuesday night at the Liberty Bowl last October, East Carolina beat Memphis, 38-19, in front of a sparse crowd. None of the top passers, rushers, or receivers from either team in that game will be on the field Saturday.

• Memphis hasn’t won a C-USA opener since 2000 (coach Rip Scherer’s final season), when the Tigers beat Army, 26-16. A Tiger loss would mean a third straight 0-2 start to a season.

• This is the first season since 1995 that the Tigers play their first two games of the season on the road. Fifteen years ago, Memphis opened with losses to Mississippi State and Michigan.

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