college football picks Memphis at East Carolina 9-11-10

September 10, 2010


FACTS & STATS: Site: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (50,000) — Greenville, North Carolina. Television:CBSCSN. Home Record: Memphis 0-0, ECU 1-0. Away Record: Memphis 0-1, ECU 0-0. Neutral Record: Memphis 0-0, ECU 0-0. Conference Record: Memphis 0-0, ECU 1-0. Series Record: East Carolina leads, 12-6.

GAME NOTES: Coming off a thrilling opening win, the East Carolina Pirates now take aim at the Memphis Tigers in Conference USA play this weekend at Dowdy- Ficklen Stadium.

The Pirates were involved one of the best finishes of the opening week, as a last-second touchdown lifted them over Tulsa, 51-49, in a wild shootout on Sunday. It was quite a way to start off the Ruffin McNeill era, as the head coach took over the reins from Skip Holtz, who left for the South Florida job after leading ECU to back-to-back C-USA titles. The victory was also the Pirates’ seventh straight against C-USA opponents and ninth consecutive in league home games.

The Tigers meanwhile, didn’t have the same kind of luck in their first game under new head coach Larry Porter. Playing on the road and against a SEC program in Mississippi State, Memphis was easily handled by a 49-7 score. It was a disappointing start for the Tigers, who have now dropped seven games in a row and are expected to have a rough campaign with a young roster.

As for the all-time series, ECU holds a 12-6 series advantage over Memphis, and the Pirates have won four straight meetings, including a 38-19 decision in 2009.

Due to significant losses this offseason, the Tigers enter 2010 with a whole new look on offense. The inexperience showed in the opener, as Memphis managed just 196 total yards, including only 41 on the ground in a lopsided loss to MSU. The Tigers’ lone score came late in the game, when Cannon Smith tossed a 27-yard TD pass to Marcus Rucker. Smith, a Miami-Florida transfer, completed 10-of-15 tosses for 111 yards while sharing time with true freshman Ryan Williams, who threw for just 85 yards and two INTs on 10-of-17 tosses. The Tigers averaged just 2.0 yards per carry in the loss and their inability to run the ball could be a problem all season long.

Memphis struggled on defense last season and no improvement was shown in the opener, as MSU dialed up 569 yards of total offense and seven TDs. The Tigers were shredded through the air, as they allowed 372 yards and five TDs behind an efficient 20-of-25 pass attempts. It was a discouraging start for a unit that surrendered 457.5 total ypg in ’09. Jamon Hughes, the team’s leading tackler last season, paced the defense with nine stops and a sack.

QB Dominique Davis tossed a 33-yard TD pass to a leaping Justin Jones as time ran out, lifting ECU to a dramatic 51-49 win over Tulsa. A junior transfer, Davis had a huge impact in his first career start with ECU, finishing with 383 yards and five TDs on 27-of-47 tosses. He also added a TD on the ground for good measure. Dwayne Harris was his main target with seven catches for 121 yards and two TDs, while Lance Lewis added six receptions for 105 yards and a pair of scores. Jonathan Williams paced the ground game, which accounted for 155 yards, with 92 yards and a score on 15 carries.

With a new cast of players on a defense that led C-USA in scoring last season, the Pirates figured to have a drop off in ’10. However, ECU didn’t expect to be pushed around like it was in the opener, when Tulsa rolled up 579 yards of total offense, including 399 through the air. The unit was burnt for seven TDs, including five passing, while allowing Tulsa to convert 11-of-15 third downs. The defense did force a pair of turnovers, but will need to improve greatly in weeks to come. Josh Smith and Melvin Patterson each set career highs in the win, with nine tackles apiece.

The Pirates are coming off a confidence-boosting opening win and that could do wonders for the team. Expect ECU to build off that victory by taking care of a Memphis squad which is searching for some kind of identity.

FREE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS : East Carolina 38, Memphis 21

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