Memphis @ East Carolina
Date: Saturday, September 16, 2006
Location: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (43,000); Greenville, NC
Time: 7:00 pm (EDT)
Records: East Carolina (0-2 Overall, 0-1 CUSA); Memphis (1-1 Overall, 0-0 CUSA)
All-Time Series Record: East Carolina leads 8-6
Last Meeting: Memphis 27 East Carolina 24- October 22, 2005 in Memphis- The Liberty Bowl
Memphis will be forced to play the remainder of the season without WR Carlton Robinzine, LB Mike Snyder, and back-up QB Will Hudgens. Starting LB Heath Grant (ankle), RB Joseph Doss (ankle), and RB T.J. Pitts (bruised thigh) are all day-to-day.
ECU/Memphis General Overview
Both teams are entering this contest off disappointing performances. Yes, Memphis won last week over Chattanooga, 33-14, but they were also not nearly as sharp as in their opener at Ole Miss the week before. At any rate, the Tigers are coming in off a win. The Pirates on the other hand will be looking to rebound from a second straight heartbreaking road defeat. The last one was more gut wrenching than the first at Navy as the Pirates lost at UAB when WR Phillip Henry was stripped inside the five- yard line on what appeared to be the game-winning touchdown. Henry was hardly to blame as the Pirates would not have been in the ball game without his six receptions, 133-yard performance.
This is a very critical game for both teams, but particularly East Carolina. If ECU wants to have a very good shot in the CUSA race, it needs to win this game. If the Pirates were to suffer a second straight conference loss, they would likely have to run the table to have any chance whatsoever. Also, they have West Virginia on the horizon next week, so it is critical to get a win and not run the risk of a 0-4 start if the Pirates weren’t to pull the upset over the Top 5 Mountaineers.
Memphis, on the other hand, is playing their conference opener and wants to get off to a solid start in league play by picking up a win on the road. The Tigers have won three straight over the Pirates, including a 38-35 win on a field goal as time expired in Greenville in 2004.
East Carolina Offense vs. Memphis Defense
Advantage: EAST CAROLINA
Despite an offensive line that is a work in progress, I still give the East Carolina offensive the edge versus Memphis’ defense. The rushing game was improved versus UAB as the Pirates rushed for just under 100 yards in the contest after only totaling 74 at Navy.
The rushing attack will be without the presence of sophomore Dominique Lindsay. Lindsay was beginning to really assert himself, but the slack will have to be picked up by Chris Johnson and Brandon Fractious. They definitely have the potential to carry the workload by themselves, but Lindsay had been the most consistent performer through two games.
The Pirates’ aerial attack was disrupted at UAB although James Pinkney threw for 280 yards. The Blazers did an effective job of mixing their coverages and taking away Aundrae Allison, holding him without a catch in the game. Pinkney was also on the run for most of the evening with his protection breaking down, but still managed to complete 20 of 38 attempts.
Memphis’ defense allowed 105 rushing yards on 24 carries to Chattanooga’s star back Eldra Buckley. The Tigers’ secondary only allowed 111 yards through the air, but they did give up two passing touchdowns. Against Ole Miss, Tommy West believed that his defensive front was manhandled by the Rebels’ offensive line. The Tigers’ strength defensively is probably their secondary where they have three-time first-team CUSA free safety Wesley Smith, who may attract All-America honors this season.
Memphis Offense vs. East Carolina Defense
Until the East Carolina defense proves otherwise, it is going to be in the underdog role against most opposing offenses. The Pirates improved upon their performance at Navy, but there were still far too many missed tackles versus UAB. ECU was the beneficiary of two Blazer fumbles inside the Pirates’ ten-yard line.
Following a performance against one of the nation’s best rushing attacks where it allowed 403 yards on the ground, the East Carolina defense responded by giving up only 124 yards on 42 carries (only 3.0 ypc).
This week they won’t be forced to stop DeAngelo Williams again, but Joseph Doss’ isn’t too shabby himself. He rushed for 112 yards on 23 carries against Ole Miss.
However, after hardly being tested through the air at Navy, Blazer quarterbacks completed 17 of 23 attempts for 199 yards and two touchdowns. The Pirates’ secondary is very experienced and should be the strong suit of the defense.
They will get tested again this week by Memphis’ quarterback Martin Hankins and the Tigers’ receiving corps. Hankins has thrown for around 500 yards in the first two games, including a 21 of 27 for 211 yards performance against Ole Miss. Prior to coming to Memphis, he played in a pass-oriented offense at Southeastern Louisiana under Hal Mumme.
The Pirates must get a better pass rush this week from Marcus Hands and company. The ECU defense appears it will have the luxury of welcoming back DE Shauntae Hunt and LB Pierre Bell. This should help ameliorate some of the Pirates’ issues.
Advantage: EAST CAROLINA
The fact that the Pirates have Robert Lee and Ryan Dougherty is enough reason to give them the advantage in the kicking game. Lee is a Lou Groza Award candidate and has connected on all three of his field goal attempts and all three of his PATs this season. His long field goal was from 48 yards.
Ryan Dougherty is a Ray Guy Award candidate, the award that goes to the nation’s top punter, and he is also excellent on kickoffs as he consistently kicks the ball into or out of the end zone for a touchback.
The Tigers also have a Ray Guy Award candidate in senior Michael Gibson. Gibson averaged 44.6 per punt last season, which ranked him 11 th nationally. Their kicking is done by freshman Matt Reagan.
East Carolina should have the advantage in the return game. Chris Johnson is a threat on kickoffs and the elusive Aundrae Allison brings back the punts.
Advantage: EAST CAROLINA
There are multiple reasons that I give the Pirates’ the advantage in the intangibles. First of all, the Pirates have lost their first two games, and can’t afford to drop to 0-2 in CUSA. They would not be eliminated from the conference race, but their backs would be against the wall, to say the least, as they would likely have to run the table to have a legit chance at winning CUSA’s East Division.
This is also East Carolina’s home opener, so they will be really up and wanting to play well before the Pirate faithful at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Not only is it the home opener, but it is also Family Weekend. Kickoff time is set for 7pm and the forecast is calling for temperatures in probably the mid to low 70s by that time, therefore, it should be a nice crowd of anywhere from 35-40,000.
The Pirate Offense will have its best performance to date before a big crowd in the home opener and East Carolina will win by 7-10 points. I’ll say: East Carolina 31 Memphis 21