East Carolina (5-6) at Marshall (5-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 26th, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Joan C. Edwards Stadium (38,000) -- Huntington, West Virginia. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: ECU 3-3, Marshall 3-1. Away Record: ECU 2-2, Marshall 2-5. Neutral Record: ECU 0-1, Marshall 0-0. Conference Record: ECU 4-3, Marshall 4-3. Series Record: ECU leads series, 9-3.
GAME NOTES: Bowl eligibility is on the line for both teams as the East Carolina Pirates head the Huntington to take on the Marshall Thundering Herd in Conference USA action at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
ECU took care of business at home last week as it edged UCF 38-31 to arrive at a 5-6 record. Ruffin McNeal's Pirates are now just one game away from bowl eligibility after starting the season 1-4.
Doc Holliday's Thundering Herd barely escaped Tennessee with a win as Memphis gave Marshall all it could handle, 23-22. Marshall also needs one win to become bowl eligible, but it could also mean much more. As Southern Mississippi was upset by UAB last week, the Thundering Herd find themselves just one game out of first place in the Conference USA's East Division. If the Golden Eagles lose to Memphis this week and Marshall wins, the Thundering Herd will advance to play the winner of the Tulsa/Houston game in the conference championship game.
ECU leads the all-time series over the Thundering Herd 9-3. The schools met every year from 1967-1970 before a tragic plane crash on the trip home from Greenville put Marshall's program out of action for a few years. The rivalry was rekindled in 2001 as Marshall took down the Pirates 64-61 in a double overtime thriller. Four years later Marshall joined the Conference USA and the programs have met every year since. The Pirates have won five of the last six encounters.
ECU has let the arm of Dominique Davis lead it to the 20th best passing attack in the nation. Davis has throw for 2940 yards this season with a completion rate of 68 percent. Davis threw four touchdowns last week against UCF, which has the best pass defense in the conference. The senior quarterback is not invincible as he has thrown 16 interceptions and at least one in his last four outings.
Lance Lewis was Davis's favorite target before he suffered a knee injury that has kept him out of action the past three games. In Lewis's absence, Justin Hardy has stepped up his play. The freshman wideout has caught a touchdown pass in each of the last three games to give him six for the year.
Torrance Hunt led the Pirates' rushing attack that compiled 186 rushing yards against the Knights. Hunt finished the game with 100 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries.
The Pirates' passing defense has been very good as of late. They have held their opponent under 200 passing yards in their last six games. The rushing defense has not been as successful as it has given up 200 yards or more in six games. Jeremy Grove and Damon Magazu have stood out this season. Grove's 113 tackles are the seventh most in the nation while Magazu's four interceptions is tied for second most in the conference.
Rakeem Cato's freshman year has been a roller coaster ride. Cato began the season as the first true freshman to start for Marshall since Chad Pennington and led his squad to an upset over Southern Mississippi in just his second start. A few games later he was benched due to the offense's lack of production as the scrambling sophomore A.J. Graham took over. Graham suffered a season ending injury in Marshall's loss to Tulsa which brought Cato back into action. Cato struggled last week against Memphis as he threw two interceptions while his squad barely survived the Tigers, but has a chance to give Marshall bowl eligibility and even a chance at the conference title this week.
Tron Martinez had his best game of the season last week against Memphis as he rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Martinez will be going up against the Pirates defense that has trouble stopping opponents ground attacks.
The Thundering Herd defensive unit has experienced highs and lows the past two weeks. Tulsa torched the defense for 682 yards of total offense and 59 points before Memphis was limited to 277 yards of total offense and 22 points. Marshall's defense is very aggressive as it is ranked second in the conference in sacks and tackles for loss. This is in large part due to NFL prospect Vinny Curry's dominance. Curry is ranked second in the nation in tackles for loss with 20.5 and is tied for fourth in the nation in sacks with 11.
ECU has dominated the series in recent history and has a savvy veteran running its offense. Marshall's defense will need to force some turnovers and not allow the Pirates to take a lead to take pressure off its rookie passer.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Marshall 28, East Carolina 27
11/23 17:06:52 ET