East Carolina (1-1) at Southern Miss (0-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 15, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Roberts Stadium (36,000) -- Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Television: CBSSN. Home Record: ECU 1-0, USM 0-0. Away Record: ECU 0-1, USM
0-1. Neutral Record: ECU 0-0, USM 0-0. Conference Record: ECU 0-0, USM 0-0.
Series Record: Southern Miss leads, 27-10.
GAME NOTES: Shane Carden is set to make his first career start for East
Carolina when the Pirates open up their Conference USA season against the
Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Roberts Stadium on Saturday.
East Carolina is clearly aiming for a return to the postseason this year after
coming up one win short of bowl eligibility in 2011. The Pirates began the
2012 campaign with a 35-13 victory over Appalachian State of the FCS before
they were pulverized by the nationally-ranked South Carolina (48-10) last time
out. Head coach Ruffin McNeill is 12-15 in his third season as the program's
head coach. ECU has lost four of its last five league road games, but been on
the winning end of 13 of its last 16 contests versus C-USA East Division
Head coach Ellis Johnson has a tough act to follow at Southern Miss this
season in his first year as the head coach. Johnson took over a program for
Larry Fedora, a team that won the Conference USA Championship, had its first
10-win season since 1988, and picked up a 24-17 victory over Nevada in the
Hawaii Bowl. Johnson's debut on the sidelines was not ideal as he watched his
team fall, 49-20, to Nebraska on Sept. 1 in Lincoln. The Golden Eagles should
be hungry after having extra time to reflect on their season-opening beating,
sitting idle this past weekend.
The Pirates and Southern Miss have squared off 37 times previously, with the
Golden Eagles holding a 27-10 advantage in the all-time series. USM is 11-4
against ECU since joining the C-USA. The Pirates will be out to avenge the
48-28 loss they experienced to Southern Miss last season. In the last six
meetings between these programs, each side has won three games.
McNeill made the announcement Monday that Carden, a sophomore, would take
over the starting quarterback duties for ECU this week.
Rio Johnson was the starter for the first two games, but he was relegated to
the bench after throwing three interceptions against South Carolina. Carden
replaced him in the third quarter against the Gamecocks, and after his first
throw was picked off, he finished 12-of-18 for 140 yards with the team's lone
While McNeill shuffled quarterbacks versus South Carolina, Justin Hardy caught
eight passes for 111 yards. The running back tandem of Michael Dobson and
Reggie Bullock should see more success and wider rushing lanes after being
shut down by the Gamecocks.
On the other side of the ball, ECU needs to improve its pass defense
drastically. The Pirates have given up 348.5 yards per game and five total
touchdowns through the air in their first two games.
ECU has lacked a leader on the defensive side of the ball so far. Jeremy Grove
is off to a slow start after finishing third in the C-USA in tackles last
season as a redshirt freshman.
The Golden Eagles failed to live up to last season's impressive averages of
36.9 points and 461.4 yards per game in their opener. A drop off was expected
to ensue when four-year starter Austin Davis graduated, but Southern Miss
managed only 260 total yards of offense against Nebraska.
Backup quarterback Anthony Alford led the way in week one with 84 rushing
yards on 15 carries in his first collegiate game while the starter, Chris
Campbell, completed 6-of-12 attempts for 69 yards and his first career passing
touchdown. Alford's strong performance earned him the starting job for this
Saturday, but Campbell may see some action as he is the better passer of the
While USM's passing game was limited by Nebraska, so was its receivers. The
speedy Tracy Lampley led the team despite being held to 27 yards on two
catches. Lampley, Quentin Pierce, and Dominique Sullivan should both have much
better performances against ECU's shaky secondary.
The running back duo of Desmond Johnson and Jeremy Hester struggled as
Nebraska dominated the battle in the trenches. Both players will have more
opportunities against their conference rival.
Defensively, Southern Miss had no answers for Taylor Martinez in its season
opening loss. Martinez threw for 354 yards and five touchdowns, while Nebraska
rushed for 278 yards. The Golden Eagles were very good at humbling opposing
offenses last season and had averages of 20.8 points and 343 yards allowed per
game, which ranked second and third in the C-USA, respectively.
Jamie Collins and Deron Wilson recorded 13 stops each to tie for the team's
lead in the opener.
Carden will not be able to dominate the Golden Eagles in his first career
start in the same manner as Taylor Martinez. Southern Miss has a noticeably
weaker offensive line this season, but Alford's elusiveness will give him time
to make plays and lead the Golden Eagles to their first win of the season and
the Ellis Johnson era.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Miss 35, East Carolina 24
09/12 11:18:20 ET
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