East Carolina at Tulsa 11-15-09

November 15, 2009

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In early December of last year, the East Carolina football team traveled to Tulsa, Okla., as a massive underdog. Today, the Pirates make the same trip as defending Conference USA champions in search of a second title.  With three-fourths of the regular season elapsed, the 5-4 Pirates begin a critical three-game stretch at 8:15 tonight in Tulsa that will decide whether or not they will represent the East Division in the C-USA title game for a second straight year.  ECU lost last week to Virginia Tech, but the Pirates were on a two-game win streak in C-USA before that and stand alone atop the East at 4-1. Tulsa, meanwhile, lost a wild affair to Houston, 46-45, last weekend and fell to 2-3 in the West.  The Pirates practiced through the rain-soaked remnants of a tropical storm through the middle of the week, and ECU head coach Skip Holtz said it was a tough assignment for the scout team to replicate the up-tempo offense of Tulsa.

The Tulsa attack is fueled by Texas transfer quarterback G.J. Kinne, a sophomore who has already proven to be a threat through the air (1,832 yards, 15 touchdowns) and on the ground (277 yards, four TD). Against Houston, Kinne went for 334 pass yards, 100 rush yards and four total touchdowns.

Kinne’s primary pass targets are sophomore Damaris Johnson (39 receptions, 711 yards, two TD) and senior Slick Shelley (24-458-4). Johnson’s 209 all-purpose yards per game rank him No. 1 in the nation entering tonight’s kickoff.  Kinne is the Golden Hurricane’s second leading rusher behind junior Jamad Williams (304 yards, TD).  On the other side, senior quarterback Patrick Pinkney (1,682 yards, eight TD) represents an ECU offense still hoping for big plays and likely needing them today.  While the Pirates’ rush attack has been bolstered by senior Dominique Lindsay (639 yards, three TD), the hot-and-cold pass attack will need to be better tonight than it has for much of the season.

Tulsa has won five of the eight meetings between the two programs, but are an even 2-2 at home against the Pirates.  The Hurricane has played in three of the last four C-USA championship games, beating UCF in 2005 before losing to the Knights in 2007 and the Pirates in 2008. The games weather report is for a lot of rain, which i think should favor East Carolina.

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