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Rice (0-6) at East Carolina (3-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 17th, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (43,000) -- Greenville, North Carolina. Television: MASN. Home Record: Rice 0-3, East Carolina 2-0. Away Record: Rice 0-3, East Carolina 1-3. Neutral Record: Rice 0-0, East Carolina 0-0. Conference Record: Rice 0-2, East Carolina 2-1. Series Record: Series tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: Still searching for their first win on the year, the Rice Owls will try to claim a victory on foreign ground when they take on the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklin Stadium this Saturday afternoon.
It has been a tough year for the Owls, who have dropped their first six contests, all of which have come by double figures. The most recent setback was a terrible, 63-14 loss to Navy at home. Over the previous three seasons the Owls collected a 9-10 mark on the road, but so far in 2009 the team has lost all three of its matchups away from home.
As for the Pirates, they saw their modest two-game winning streak come to an end this past weekend, as the team was defeated by SMU, 28-21. It was the third loss on the season for East Carolina, but the team's first setback in Conference-USA action. Since the beginning of the 2007 campaign, the Pirates have been one of the better team's in the conference, racking up a 15-5 ledger.
The all-time series between Rice and East Carolina is currently split at one game apiece. However, this will be the first meeting between the two schools since Rice defeated the Pirates, 17-16 back in 2006.
The Owls were limited to just 272 total yards in their recent matchup with Navy. Rice did nothing on the ground in the contest, finishing with just 21 yards on a woeful 1.3 yards per tote. The pass attack was better, as Nick Fanuzzi threw for 242 yards and two scores, but was also intercepted twice in the loss. Fanuzzi has split time on the year with John Shepherd and Ryan Lewis, but has been the best of the bunch, completing 59.1 percent of his throws for 600 yards and three scores. The problems for the passing attack however, do not compare to the issues the ground game has dealt with so far, as the team is being limited to just 86.7 ypg on only 2.8 yards per attempt. Charles Ross has posted four rushing touchdowns, but only has a team-high 140 yards on the ground. Overall the team is producing a meager 295.0 total yards per contest, and that has translated to just 16.5 ppg.
The defense was absolutely demolished by the ground game of Navy on Saturday, as the Owls were gashed for 471 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground, on a generous 5.9 yards per carry. The defense surrendered 31 first downs in the contest, 28 via the run. Rice did not force a turnover, or record a sack in the loss, and also allowed the Midshipmen to convert on all nine of their red zone chances. Stopping the run has been a major concern for this unit throughout the season, as the team is being pounded for 215.3 ypg. Out of the 34 touchdowns surrendered, 21 have come on the ground. The Owls have also struggled to come up with big plays in critical situations, as opponents are converting 42 percent of their third down chances, and an eye-popping 94 percent of their red zone attempts. Overall the defense is being battered for 472.2 total ypg, leading to 44.3 ppg. Both numbers are reasons why the Owls are still searching for their first win.
The Pirates totaled a modest 357 total yards on Saturday against SMU, but the team managed just 21 points in the setback. The ground game did most of the damage in the contest, as the team rumbled for 176 yards and two scores on 4.0 yards per attempt. Dominique Lindsay led the rushing attack with 144 yards on 24 totes, while Giavanni Ruffin and Dwayne Harris both scored rushing touchdowns. Pat Pinkney struggled at times in the contest, and finished with just 181 yards, while also tossing an interception. Pinkney has been unable to find a groove this season and heads into this game with 1,068 and four touchdowns, against six interceptions. With Pinkney's inconsistent play, the team has relied on the ground game, which is being led by Lindsay, who has rushed for 353 yards and three touchdowns. Brandon Jackson has contributed 229 yards in five games, and has also found the end zone twice. As a whole the Pirates head into this weekend averaging just 308.3 total ypg, and that has translated into a modest 21.2 ppg.
The Pirates only surrendered 294 total yards on Saturday, but still managed to allow SMU to score 28 points and grab the win. The Pirates were tenacious against the run, holding the Mustangs to just 28 yards on 1.3 yards per attempt. The defense only forced one turnover in the contest, but recorded three sacks and held SMU to just 2-of-10 on third down attempts. Six games into the season and the Pirates have forced 14 turnovers (eight interceptions and six fumbles), but have been unable to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, racking up just 11 sacks. The team has been strong against the run, limiting opponents to just 117.0 ypg on 3.4 yards per attempt. Overall the defense is allowing 358.0 total yards per matchup, leading to 24.8 ppg.
The Pirates are coming off a tough loss, but should rebound in a huge way against a weak Rice squad. Look for East Carolina to punish the Owls on the ground, sending them to their seventh loss on the year.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: East Carolina 38, Rice 13
10/14 10:41:18 ET