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Southern Mississippi (7-1) at East Carolina (4-4)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 5th, 4:00 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (50,000) -- Greenville, North Carolina. Television: CSS. Home Record: Southern Miss 4-0, ECU 2-2. Away Record: Southern Miss 3-1, ECU 2-1. Neutral Record: Southern Miss 0-0, ECU 0-1. Conference Record: Southern Miss 3-1, ECU 3-1. Series Record: Southern Miss leads, 26-10.

GAME NOTES: First place will be on the line this Saturday afternoon when the East Carolina Pirates host the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles in a Conference-USA tilt at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

If not for a six-point loss to Marshall back in early September the Golden Eagles would be perfect on the year. Since that setback, the Golden Eagles have dismantled the competition, winning six in a row, with five of those victories coming by double figures. The last time Southern Mississippi was in action the team clobbered Texas-El Paso on the road, 31-13, moving to 3-1 in league play.

The Pirates are also 3-1 in conference action, but their path has been much tougher. East Carolina opened the year with four losses in its first five games. However, since a loss to Houston, the Pirates have played well, winning three straight against Memphis, Navy and most recently Tulane.

The Pirates have won the last two matchups against Southern Miss, including a thrilling 44-43 decision last year. However, the Golden Eagles own a 26-10 edge over East Carolina all-time and have dominated action in Greenville, posting a 15-3 ledger against ECU.

The Golden Eagles have performed like a well-oiled machine offensively, using the run and pass to take out the opposition. Even though he has missed some time, Kendrick Hardy is leading the team with 426 rushing yards on the season. When he has been sidelined, Jamal Woodyard has filled in admirably, racking up 418 yards.

The passing attack has been even better thanks to the play of Austin Davis, who comes into this weekend with over 2,000 passing yards and 17 touchdowns against eight interceptions.

Davis tossed three touchdowns in the team's victory over Texas-El Paso, and like many times this year, Southern Miss was balanced offensively by calling 42 run plays. Woodyard did most of the damage, rumbling for 134 yards and one touchdown on 16 totes.

The play of the offense is getting all the attention, but the defense has also been up to the task throughout the season, limiting the opposition to just 18.5 ppg.

Southern Miss is holding the competition to under 4.0 yards per carry and has surrendered only seven rushing touchdowns, and at the same time the secondary has allowed only seven touchdowns as well, while recording 11 interceptions.

The Golden Eagles were tenacious in the win over UTEP, as the defense held the Miners to just 262 total yards. The Miners found little room on the ground and were held to just 68 rushing yards. Deron Wilson claimed his first interception on the year in the win, while Ronnie Thornton racked up 11 tackles.

The Pirates are clearly picking up steam offensively scoring 35, 38 and 34 points, respectively, in their last three games. The last time East Carolina was in action the team relied heavily on the play of Dominique Davis, who threw for 329 yards and one touchdown, and also finished with two rushing scores as well. The ground game as a whole though was not overly impressive, as the team finished with just 125 yards on 3.7 yards per carry.

Davis has carried this offense on his back for most of the season and comes into this game with 2,342 yards and 15 touchdowns. Davis has also completed over 70.0 percent of his throws, which is amazing, but surprisingly he also has 11 interceptions. The quarterback has also helped the team rushing attack, scoring four of the team's 11 scores on the ground. As a whole though the Pirates have done very little running the ball and comes into this weekend posting just 94.9 ypg.

Even though the offense is scoring at a much higher level the defense has still been inconsistent. Sure, the Pirates held Tulane to just 13 points, but the Green Wave have been dreadful in terms of offensive production.

Overall opponents are averaging 31.5 ppg against East Carolina and have clobbered them with the run, averaging 186.6 ypg, while scoring 18 times on the ground. Even the Green Wave were able to find some running room this past weekend, as they churned out 134 yards against ECU.

However, the defense did force two turnovers and finished with four sacks in the win. Kyle Tudor paced the team in the win with 11 tackles, while Jeremy Groves, the team's leading tackler (82), added six in the win.

The Pirates have played much better of late, but the Golden Eagles are among the conference elite and should once again flex their muscle on the road against East Carolina.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Miss 38, East Carolina 20

11/02 10:32:30 ET