(14) East Carolina (2-0) at Tulane (0-1)
Saturday, September 13th, 3:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Mike Castiglione, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The surprise team of the season so far, the 14th-ranked East Carolina Pirates, look to keep rolling along as they open Conference USA play at Tulane this week.
ECU has vaulted up the rankings after opening the season with a 27-22 win over 17th-ranked Virginia Tech, then posting a 24-3 victory over eighth-ranked West Virginia last weekend. The Pirates have not began a season 3-0 since 1999. Coach Skip Holtz called the West Virginia win the most complete game he's seen since he�s been at ECU
"I was really pleased with the way the team came out and played," he said at his weekly press conference. "I thought we played really smart, physical, fast and with an awful lot of confidence. Those are the battle cries of what we're trying to take into every game and I think the team answered the bell and did a great job."
Tulane got its first action of the season last week, falling at 11th-ranked Alabama, 20-6. The Green Wave had a significant edge in total offense (318-172), but could not overcome a pair of first-quarter return touchdowns by Alabama�s special teams. This will be the first of four straight games the Green Wave play in New Orleans.
ECU has a 7-2 edge in the all-time series with Tulane, thanks to wins in six of the last seven meetings.
The Pirates put on an impressive show from start to finish against West Virginia. Quarterback Pat Pinkney was extremely efficient guiding the Pirates offense, completing 22-of-28 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown. The Pirates held an 11-minute edge in time of possession, as they converted 8-of-16 third downs. Jon Williams carried 17 times for 69 yards and scored on two short touchdown runs. The offense has been able to keep drives alive with a balanced attack in each of its first two games. The Pirates also controlled the clock against Virginia Tech by converting 7-of-13 third downs.
A couple of guys on the ECU defense are banged up, but are expected to play. Linebacker Jeremy Chambliss is dealing with an ankle injury, while defensive back J.J. Milbrook has an ailing shoulder. Those two helped bottle up Mountaineers quarterback Pat White and kept him out of the end zone. White finished with 97 yards rushing and 72 yards passing, while being sacked three times. Speedy running back Noel Devine was also kept under 100 yards rushing. The Pirates held West Virginia to 3-of-12 on third downs, as the Mountaineers converted just 12 first downs for the game. Not many outsiders saw this type of performance coming from the defense, but as Holtz noted, his team is playing with lots of confidence.
The Green Wave put up a tough fight against SEC power Alabama, but all those yards they gained translated into just six points. Kicker Ross Thevenot had his struggles, missing a 23-yarder and a 41-yarder. If there was one lesson the Green Wave learned, it's that they've got to be able to punch it in the end zone when they drive down the field. They converted 7-of-20 third downs and held a 13-minute advantage in time of possession, with their only turnover coming on downs late in the fourth quarter.
Kevin Moore went 28-of-49 for 225 yards, spreading the wealth to 10 different receivers. However, Tulane struggled on the ground, averaging just 2.7 ypc on 32 attempts as a team.
Defensively, the only points Tulane allowed by the Crimson Tide offense came on a 15-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter. Alabama's high-powered offense was held to 3-of-11 on third downs, and converted only 11 first downs all game. Running back Mark Ingram finished with just 63 yards, while quarterback John Parker Wilson was held to 73 yards passing and was sacked four times. The secondary did a great job stepping in front of passes, breaking up five of Wilson's attempts. It was just the kind of effort the program was looking for when it hired O'Neill Gilbert to take over a defense that returned seven starters. The Green Wave struggled against the pass last year, allowing 288 passing yards per game. If they can shore up that area, they'd be poised to make big strides in '08, even without Matt Forte in the backfield.
The Pirates have catapulted themselves onto the national radar with two very well-played games. While the Green Wave only have one game on which to judge themselves, they certainly put forth a solid effort despite the end result. Still, the Pirates have not shown many weaknesses and figure to be tough to beat until they get exposed by somebody.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: East Carolina 27, Tulane 14
09/10 10:30:42 ET