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East Carolina (5-4) at U-A-B (3-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, November 11th, 8:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Legion Field (72,000) -- Birmingham, Alabama. Television: CBSCSN. Home Record: ECU 4-1, UAB 2-2. Away Record: ECU 1-3, UAB 1-4. Neutral Record: ECU 0-0, UAB 0-0. Conference Record: ECU 4-1, UAB 2-3. Series Record: East Carolina leads, 5-4.
GAME NOTES: East Carolina has hit a bump in the road, but the Pirates will try to get back into the win column this Thursday night when they head to Birmingham to battle the UAB Blazers in a key Conference-USA bout.
The Pirates were dismantled this past weekend by Navy, and fell to the Midshipmen 76-35. It was the second straight loss for ECU, which fell to UCF the previous week. ECU is currently one game behind UCF for the top spot in the east division, so the Pirates need to right the ship quickly if they want a chance at another league title.
UAB's rough season continued this past weekend, as the Blazers were defeated by Marshall, 31-17. It was the fourth loss in six games for UAB, which is just 2-3 in Conference-USA action. Fortunately for the Blazers they have claimed two of their three wins at home, so maybe the comfort of Legion Field can help the team climb back into the win column.
The Pirates have won the last three meetings against UAB, and now own a slim 5-4 edge over the Blazers in the all-time series. The last time these two schools collided, the Pirates grabbed a convincing, 37-21 decision over UAB in Greenville.
The Pirates possess one of the more dangerous offensive units in the conference, and their 36.4 ppg ranks third among teams in the C-USA. The Pirates are churning out a respectable 122.4 ypg on the ground, but the main reason for this offense's success has been the performance of Dominique Davis. The quarterback has thrown for 2,746 yards and comes into this matchup with 26 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions.
Dwayne Harris and Lance Lewis are the two big targets for Davis, and have combined for 17 touchdowns. Harris is currently leading the team with 70 receptions and 823 yards, while Lewis has hauled in 57 passes for 637. The two players caught two touchdowns each in the team's recent loss to Navy, as Lewis led the way with 118 yards on nine catches, while Harris added 73 yards on seven receptions.
Considering both receivers had big performances, it only makes sense that Davis did as well. The quarterback for ECU did everything he could to get a win for ECU, but his 413 passing yards and five touchdown passes were not nearly enough to upend Navy. Even the ground game had success, as Jon Williams led the way with 94 of the team's 154 rushing yards.
Usually when a quarterback and an offense as a whole has a performance like Davis and the Pirates did against Navy it translates into a win. However, that was definitely not the case this past weekend, as the defense for ECU was clobbered by Navy.
The Pirates were pulverized by the Midshipmen on the ground, allowing 521 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Stopping the run is clearly not a strong suit for this unit, but at this point in the season it has become a glaring problem that has crippled ECU as a whole.
Through nine games, the Pirates are surrendering 221.6 ypg and had allowed the opposition to score 26 rushing touchdowns. Taking a back seat to the troubles against the run, is the secondary, which has been embarrassed at times during the year. As it currently stands the Pirates are being torched for 235.3 ypg, and have surrendered 19 touchdowns, while recording just eight interceptions.
The Blazers do not have an explosive attack like East Carolina, but coach Neil Callaway's crew is very balanced offensively, and their success has led to 24.4 ppg.
The ground game, which is averaging 166.1 ypg, has been led by Pat Shed, who comes into this matchup with 607 rushing yards and two scores. Second on the team is quarterback David Isabelle, who has rumbled for 394 yards and four touchdowns. However, the signal caller is dealing with a hand injury and his participation in Thursday's game is questionable. While Isabelle is dangerous with his legs, he has not done much with his arm, so that is where Bryan Ellis comes into the picture. Ellis has been mediocre on the season, completing just 55.3 percent of his throws, while tossing 14 touchdowns against nine interceptions.
Ellis had a solid game this past weekend against Marshall, as the quarterback threw for 235 yards and two scores. However, he did toss an interception and finished with a completion rating less than 50.0 percent, so not all was well under center. However, Ellis did not struggle alone, as the rushing attack was bottled up for just 83 yards on 3.0 yards per attempt. Shed, who hauled in six passes for 48 yards, led the way for the Blazers on the ground as well, rumbling for 45 yards on 16 totes.
While the offense has put forth a solid effort, it has gone virtually unnoticed because the defensive play for UAB has been very poor. The Blazers have been unable to stop the run, and the secondary has also had trouble stopping the pass, and all the trouble has led to 31.3 ppg.
UAB's inability to stop the pass was evident in the loss to Marshall, as the Blazers were torched for 304 yards and three touchdowns. Not all was bad for this defense however, as the Blazers were able to hold the Thundering Herd under 100 yards on the ground, but that is likely because Marshall had so much success through the air, it did not to rely on its rushing attack.
Clearly the only way East Carolina can win is if the team scores enough points that the defense can not blow the lead. That was not the case the past two weeks for the Pirates, but this Thursday against UAB, Davis and company should have no trouble pouring on the points against the Blazers, en route to a victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: East Carolina 45, UAB 34
11/10 10:53:03 ET