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East Carolina (2-2) at Marshall (3-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 3rd, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Joan C. Edwards Stadium (38,019) -- Huntington, West Virginia. Television: CBSCSN. Home Record: ECU 2-0, Marshall 2-0. Away Record: ECU 0-2, Marshall 1-1. Neutral Record: ECU 0-0, Marshall 0-0. Conference Record: ECU 1-0, Marshall 1-0. Series Record: East Carolina leads, 7-3.
GAME NOTES: Fresh off their second road victory since the beginning of the 2007 campaign, the Marshall Thundering Herd will try their luck on their home field when they host the East Carolina Pirates this Saturday afternoon in a Conference-USA battle at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The Pirates come into this meeting with Marshall riding high off a hard- fought, 19-14 victory over UCF. It was the second victory on the season for ECU, which opened the new year with a 29-24 decision over Appalachian State. The Pirates have been one of the top teams in the C-USA since the start of the 2007 season, racking up a 14-4 ledger.
As for the Herd, they have won three of their first four matchups, including two straight. This past weekend Marshall collected a rare road win by dismantling Memphis, 27-16. Conference play has been a problem for the Herd since the beginning of the 2005 campaign, as the team has posted a lackluster 14-19 mark.
This will be the 11th meeting between the Pirates and Thundering Herd. ECU has won seven of the 10 previous matchups, including three of the last four. Last season the Pirates needed overtime to grab the victory, slipping past Marshall, 19-16.
The Pirates used a pass-happy approach in their matchup against UCF, and that helped East Carolina earn a 19-14 victory. Pat Pinkney threw for 293 yards and one touchdown on 27-of-40 efficiency. Dwayne Harris was on the receiving end of the touchdown pass and finished with 121 yards on 10 catches. Harris also scored a touchdown on the ground and finished the game with 27 rushing yards on just three carries. The ground game was paced by Brandon Jackson who rushed for a career-high 88 yards on 4.4 ypc.
It was a much needed performance for the Pirates who come into this weekend averaging a pedestrian 301.8 total ypg and 21.2 ppg. Four games into the season and Pinkney has been inconsistent, completing just 54.4 percent of his throws for 756 yards. The signal caller comes into this contest with four touchdowns and four interceptions. The ground game has also dealt with issues and is only mustering 104.0 ypg on a meager 3.2 yards per attempt. Jackson has been the main option since Dominique Lindsay went down with a shoulder injury, and is leading the way with 206 yards.
On top of the strong performance by the offense the defensive unit also put forth a solid effort, limiting UCF to just 336 total yards in the win. ECU did a tremendous job against the run, holding the Knights to just 70 yards on a mere 2.9 yards per carry. The Pirates made one big play after another, forcing UCF into five turnovers, while also recording four sacks. This was the best effort by ECU's defense on the season, as the Pirates come into this weekend allowing 381.0 total ypg, and that has led to 26.0 ppg. The Pirates have thrived on the big play thus far and currently have 11 takeaways on the year, but at the same time the defense has been inconsistent with its pressure, racking up just seven sacks. Van Eskridge has done a little bit of everything and comes into this weekend leading the team with 25.5 tackles, while also posting 2.5 TFLs, two interceptions and one forced fumble.
The Thundering Herd ran right through Memphis on Saturday, racking up 243 rushing yards on 5.9 yards per carry, en route to the 11-point win. Darius Marshall led the ground attack with 203 yards and three touchdowns on 25 totes. With the success of the rushing attack, Brian Anderson was not called upon very often, as the signal caller completed just 10 passes for 97 yards in the win.
Four games into the season and the identity for Marshall seems to be its ground game, which is churning out an impressive 171.8 ypg on a healthy 4.8 yards per attempt. However the success of the ground game has not translated into many points, as Marshall is currently posting a pedestrian 21.2 ppg. Although, as long as Marshall continues to run the ball with great success the Herd should be in every matchup. The junior has been one of the best tailbacks in the Conference-USA and comes into this weekend with 498 rushing yards and five touchdowns on an eye-popping 7.9 yards per carry.
Defensively the Herd were not overwhelming, but the defense still limited Memphis to just 16 points despite allowing 351 total yards. The Herd forced two turnovers in the win, but lacked any pressure and finished the game without a sack. Considering the struggles this unit dealt with in the first three matchups this performance over Memphis was a good sign. With four games under their belt the Herd have had issues against the run and pass, as opponents are churning out 169.5 ypg on the ground, while also torching Marshall for another 245.5 passing yards. Making big plays has also been a problem for this defense as the team has collected seven turnovers and eight sacks after four weeks.
The Pirates are the more complete team in this matchup, but playing in Huntington is a very tough test for anyone. Expect a big game from Pinkney and company as they lead East Carolina to another conference win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: East Carolina 28, Marshall 25
09/30 10:30:11 ET