East Carolina @ UAB
Date:Saturday, September 9, 2006
Location: Legion Field (83,091) Birmingham, AL
Time: 7:00 pm (EDT)
Television: WITN (Local telecast to Eastern North Carolina)
Records: ECU (0-1, overall; 0-0 in CUSA) UAB (0-1 overall; 0-0 in CUSA)
All-Time Series Record: UAB leads 3-2
Last Meeting: East Carolina 31 UAB 23 (November 26, 2005 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium
LB Pierre Bell, who missed the Navy game with a shoulder injury, will likely not play against UAB as he is still experiencing a lack of strength in his shoulder. He did dress out at Navy and should be suited up in Birmingham. DT Brandon Setzer suffered a knee injury in the second half at Navy and is lost for 2-4 weeks. RB Norman Whitley, who was likely to be redshirted anyway, is out for the season as he will undergo shoulder surgery in the coming weeks. C Drew Sutton, who was injured during camp, is expected to be ready to go.
UAB could possibly be without preseason Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year senior DE Larry McSwain for a second straight week. He missed the Oklahoma game due to a suspension for a violation of team rules and his status for this week is unclear. Blazers' WR Nick Coon will still be sidelined, but FB Taylor Ownbey (knee), LB Gerod Condry (hamstring), and RB Trey Chaney (knee) could all possibly be back for the East Carolina game.
ECU/UAB General Overview
East Carolina and UAB are both entering the game coming off narrow road losses against solid opponents. The Pirates lost a 28-23 decision to what will likely prove to be a very good Navy team. The Blazers led #5 Oklahoma, 17-14, before eventually falling to the Sooners, 24-17.
Both teams will be looking to rebound from these heartbreaking defeats and get a win to start conference play on the right note. This game is even more important when you look at the games each opponent has in the coming weeks. East Carolina will be facing Memphis and West Virginia in Greenville in their next two contests, while UAB will travel to play "Between the Hedges" at Georgia before welcoming Sylvester Croom's Mississippi State Bulldogs to Legion Field.
The Blazers lead the all-time series, 3-2, and have won both games that have been played at Legion Field. They upset the Pirates, 36-17, in 1999 and also won 36-29 in 2002. East Carolina has never won a football game in the state of Alabama, as they are currently 0-7. Their other losses came at Auburn, Alabama, and two bowl games in Mobile ( Mobile, Alabama in ‘99 and GMAC in ‘01)
However, East Carolina did win last year's game. The 31-23 loss prevented UAB from becoming bowl eligible.
The Pirates were sharp, particularly in the passing game, at Navy. They didn't have your usual first game blunders, which was pleasing to Head Coach Skip Holtz and staff. They committed only three penalties and turned the ball over once on what was at least a questionable call.
ECU's problems came primarily up front, where several new players are being utilized. The offensive line pass protected well, but the running game is a work in progress. There was a handful of successful rushing plays, but nothing with any consistency.
UAB played very well, offensively and defensively, in the opener against Oklahoma. They found themselves a starter at quarterback in Sam Hunt, who made plays with his arm and legs in Norman. On the other side of the ball, the Blazers played a very physical, tough brand of defense. They forced four turnovers, and also held OU to only 140 yards rushing. That isn't bad at all when you're facing a Heisman Trophy candidate such as Adrian Peterson, a back who combines speed and physicality.
Lets take a closer look at how the two teams match up….
East Carolina Offense vs. UAB Defense
Advantage: EAST CAROLINA
I give the East Carolina offense a slight edge due to their passing game. They will most likely look to throw it about 55-60% of the time and I think they have the edge in that matchup.
The line protected James Pinkney well against Navy's complex 3-4 scheme. UAB runs a more conventional 4-3 look on defense and are also much bigger than the Midshipmen, but I think the Pirate "hogs" will provide Pinkney with ample time to throw the football.
The Pirates have a host of talented receivers for James Pinkney to distribute the football to. Pinkney completed passes to nine different receivers versus Navy. Not surprisingly, Aundrae Allison led the team in receptions with six for 86 yards. However, viable threats such as Kevin Roach, Steven Rogers, Phillip Henry, Bobby Good and Jamar Bryant should prevent teams from becoming too narrow in their efforts to stop Allison. Tight end Devon Drew also had a 21-yard reception against Navy.
This talented group will be facing off against a talented UAB defense that played well in Norman against Bob Stoops' Sooners and Heisman Trophy candidate Adrian Peterson. They are a very physical and aggressive team. OU only managed to convert 3 of 11 first downs against the Blazers.
They are well aware of Aundrae Allison and the threat he presents. Look for another Pirate receiver to have a breakout game if they do a good job of taking away Allison.
Rushing the ball will be difficult for ECU. OU could only manage 143 rushing yards with a back like Peterson.
UAB Offense vs. East Carolina Defense
East Carolina's defense is very inexperienced in the front seven. The secondary is full of seniors, and is in very good shape. Much of the front seven got their first significant game experience last week versus Navy. It is still a work in progress for defensive coordinator Greg Hudson, but he feels that the pieces of the puzzle are there.
It is tough to get a read on exactly how the Pirates will fare against a more conventional offense as opposed to the triple-option, flexbone attack they saw last week.
The Blazers ran the ball decently against OU, totaling 135 yards on 40 attempts, which came out to 3.4 per carry. With ECU's youth in the front seven, expect UAB to force East Carolina to stop the run first. This is even more applicable when you take into consideration that ECU is missing 6-6, 303-pound defensive tackle Brandon Setzer.
I can't imagine the Pirates not getting anything other than a heavy dose of Corey White, and setting up the pass with the run.
UAB protected the football well against Oklahoma, while also doing a good job of executing their game plan of controlling the football. They had it 35 minutes.
The Pirates must force the Blazers and Sam Hunt to beat their strength, which is their secondary and pass rush with Marcus Hands.
Advantage: EAST CAROLINA
The Pirates' are in excellent shape in the kicking game. Punter Ryan Dougherty is a Ray Guy Award candidate, while placekicker Robert Lee is on the watch list for the Lou Groza Award.
Dougherty dropped three of his four punts inside Navy's 20-yard line. He also handles the kickoff duties and had one touchback.
Robert Lee made both of his PAT attempts as well as a 48-yard field goal into the wind against the Midshipmen.
The return game is in good shape with Aundrae Allison handling punts and Chris Johnson and Dominique Lindsay bringing back the kickoffs.
UAB's punter is solid as he posted a strong 44.3 yard average on seven punts against Oklahoma. Placekicker Swayze Waters hit his 32-yard attempt, but missed from 43. He connected on both PATs.
Elliot returned three kickoffs for 76 yards for UAB, including a long of 26.
Both teams have a lot to play for with it being the conference opener. Neither coach likes the fact that they're playing a conference game in the second game of the season, but have stressed the importance of the game to their teams.
Final PredictionEast Carolina's defense will improve against the run, while James Pinkney and the Pirate offense have another good day throwing the football. The Pirates will win a close one at Legion Field.