Tulane (2-6) at East Carolina (3-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 29th, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (50,000) -- Greenville, North Carolina. Television: WITN. Home Record: Tulane 1-4, ECU 1-2. Away Record: Tulane 1-2, ECU 2-1. Neutral Record: Tulane 0-0, ECU 0-1. Conference Record: Tulane 1-3, ECU 2-1. Series Record: East Carolina leads, 8-2.
GAME NOTES: After a slow start to the season, the East Carolina Pirates seem to be on track and will carry their recent moment into a meeting with the Tulane Green Wave this Saturday afternoon at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
The Green Wave opened the season with two victories in their first three games and even though the wins came against Southeastern Louisiana and UAB, there was reason for optimism in New Orleans. However, those thoughts of a successful season have vanished over the past five weeks, as the team has lost all five of those matchups, including four by double figures. This past weekend Tulane dropped to 1-3 in Conference USA play with a 33-17 setback to Memphis.
The Pirates were the exact opposite of Tulane, as they began their season with four losses in their first five games, with the lone win coming against UAB. However, since falling to Houston on the road, the Pirates have recorded back- to-back road victories over Memphis and Navy. Now East Carolina returns to Greenville with a chance at a third straight win and more importantly a 3-1 mark in league play.
This is a relatively new series, but one that has been dominated by East Carolina. The Pirates have won eight of the 10 matchups, including all six games played in Greenville. ECU comes into this meeting with three straight wins over Tulane, including a 28-24 decision last year.
The Green Wave have not been overwhelming offensively by any stretch of the imagination, but they have been competitive at times and the two biggest reasons for that are Orleans Darkwa and Ryan Griffin.
Darkwa is pacing the team on the ground with 517 yards and eight touchdowns, but as a whole the team is producing a pedestrian 119.1 ypg via the run and at the same time averaging just 3.8 yards per carry.
As for Griffin, he has been respectable under center for Tulane, and while his numbers are not eye-popping (1,754 yards and 10 touchdowns), he has done plenty to supply the Green Wave with a solid passing attack.
However, that was not the case this past weekend against Memphis. Sure, the Green Wave racked up 26 first downs, but Griffin threw two costly interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Griffin finished with 377 yards and one score, but his turnovers came at the wrong time and played a large role in the team's loss. Darkwa scored the only other touchdown for Tulane, as the tailback finished with 84 yards on 18 totes.
While the offense has been good, it has not been good enough to carry a defense that is surrendering 35.1 ppg. There has been one glaring issue for this unit all year and it has come against the run, as the opposition is averaging 169.2 ypg and have already scored 22 rushing touchdowns on the year.
Surprisingly in the team's loss to Memphis it was not the run that crippled Tulane. Sure, the team allowed two rushing touchdowns, but the Green Wave held the Tigers to just 76 yards on 2.3 yards per carry. It was a strong showing, but clearly not the norm, as Memphis has one of the worst rushing attacks in the nation.
If there is a lone bright spot to this unit it is the play of Trent Mackey, who has consistency made plays on the field. The linebacker racked up 13 tackles in the loss and already 100 stops in eight games.
The Pirates scored 70 combined points in their four losses, but during their currently two-game winning streak the team has put up 73 points, so clearly something has clicked for this unit.
It could be the play of Dominique Davis. The quarterback has been erratic at times this season and already has 10 interceptions, but he has also completed over 70.0 percent of his throws and comes into this weekend with 2,013 yards and 14 touchdowns. He is the straw that stirs the drink at ECU and the team will go as far as Davis can lead them.
Davis was simply amazing in the team's recent win over Navy, as the quarterback completed an astounding 40-of-45 passes for 372 yards and two touchdowns. Lance Lewis hauled in one of those touchdowns and finished with 80 yards on nine receptions.
The ground game also made a solid contribution, which has been rare this season, but the Pirates were able to rack up 132 yards. Reggie Bullock did most of the work, finishing with 104 yards and three touchdowns. However, he is dealing with a troublesome leg injury which will keep him out of action this weekend.
Defensively the Pirates have been abused for most of the season, and that main problem has come against the run, and that did not bode well for ECU with Navy on the slate this past weekend.
The Midshipmen abused ECU for 284 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, but even with the lack of success in that area the Pirates still pulled out the win. Clearly any win is a good win, but eventually the team's inability to stop the run is going to hurt ECU in the long run. At the present moment this defense is being gashed for 194.1 ypg and has already surrendered 17 touchdowns on the ground.
That is not the only problem for East Carolina though as the team has also been unable to force many plays and comes into this weekend with only 12 takeaways and 10 sacks. Jeremy Grove does not have a sack and has not forced a turnover for ECU, but he has been a tackling machine and comes into this game with a team-best 76 stops.
Neither team has played well defensively, but the Pirates have dominated this series and have a clear advantage at quarterback. Look for Davis to keep the Pirates in the win column.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: East Carolina 34, Tulane 24
10/26 10:45:51 ET