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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 17, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mercedes Benz-Superdome (72,000) -- New Orleans, Louisiana. Television: Cox Sports. Home Record: ECU 4-1, Tulane 2-4. Away Record: ECU 2-3, Tulane 0-4. Neutral Record: ECU 0-0, Tulane 0-0. Conference Record: ECU 5-1, Tulane 2-4. Series Record: East Carolina leads, 9-2.
GAME NOTES: The East Carolina Pirates make their final road trip of the season as they visit the Big Easy to play the Tulane Green Wave in a Conference USA bout at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Pirates have dominated their all-time series with Tulane and enter Saturday holding a 9-2 edge in the rivalry. ECU has reeled off four wins in a row over the Green Wave, including a 34-13 decision in 2011 in Greenville, North Carolina.
ECU is coming off of a bye after an impressive 48-28 victory at home over Houston on Nov. 3. Coach Ruffin McNeal's squad became bowl eligible with that win. The Pirates are one game behind UCF in the league's East Division standings, but the Knights also own the tie-breaker because of their 40-20 win over ECU on Oct. 4. ECU can still win the division if its wins out and UCF loses two straight to end the regular season.
Tulane ended an FBS leading 12-game losing streak on Oct. 13 versus SMU. It has since gone 1-3 with a 37-23 loss to Memphis its last time out. The Green Wave gained 23 first downs but failed to overcome 97 penalty yards. This contest will be the final contest for the Green Wave at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this season, where both of their wins took place in October.
East Carolina has an air-it-out philosophy on offense. The Pirates are averaging 394.8 yards and 28.2 points per game this season.
Shane Carden won the starting job from Rio Johnson after week two and has done a very good job for a first-year starter. The sophomore quarterback managed to set new career-highs in completions (31) and attempts (43) while passing for 305 yards and four TDs with one interception versus Houston. Carden had thrown for more than 300 yards in three of his past four outings.
Justin Hardy has made Carden's first year under center much easier. The sophomore wideout has been simply unguardable. Hardy has amassed impressive totals of 820 yards, nine TDs, and 62 receptions, which leaves him with an 82 ypg average.
Vintavious Cooper provides ECU with a ton of offensive punch out of the backfield. He has piled up 891 yards on the season and has really stepped up his production as the season progressed. Cooper comes in on a streak of three appearances with 100 yards or more after gaining 140 on 33 carries against the Cougars.
In comparison to rest of the C-USA, ECU is an above average defensive team. The Pirates are ranked fourth in the league in both scoring defense (28.6 ppg) and total defense (407.3 ypg).
Jeremy Grove and Damon Magazu have each reached the 60-tackle plateau with Groce 62 each. Derrell Johnson has been solid on the edge, collecting 7.5 tackles for loss. Chip Thompson is the team's best playmaker in the secondary with three interceptions.
The Green Wave's offense was on fire heading into its bout with Memphis, as it carried an average of 435 yards per game in their previous three outings. However, Tulane was held to 291 yards of total offense and turned the ball over five total times against the Tigers. Tulane has scored 20 or more points in each of its previous five games after not producing more than 13 in any of the five prior contests. The team's season numbers are still uninspiring as Tulane ranks ninth in the C-USA in scoring offense (21.7 ppg) and 10th in total offense (314.3 ypg).
The majority of Tulane's turnovers last week came from quarterback Ryan Griffin, who threw four interceptions in the losing effort. The senior passer played well prior to the Memphis debacle. He returned just in time to lead Tulane to a win over SMU by passing for 302 yards and three TDs.
Griffin continued his steady play by going 28-of-44 for 362 yards and two scores with no interceptions at Texas-El Paso before setting a new school record with 466 yards and a new career-high with five TDs on 34-of-42 passing versus UAB. Griffin then broke his own single game passing record by throwing for 476 yards versus Rice, but Memphis seemed to have him figured out last week.
Ryan Grant continued to excel by making 11 receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown for his third straight 100-yard receiving game. He is leading the pass heavy C-USA with 94.7 receiving yards per game. The junior wideout has reeled in 42 catches for 947 yards and six TDs in Tulane's sporadic offense. Xavier Rush has shown the ability to punish defenses for keying on Grant too much.
Rob Kelley (270 yards) and Orleans Darkwa (208 yards) both see action in the ground attack, which is the lowest in the conference at just 42.3 ypg.
On the season, the Green Wave's opponents are averaging 481.3 yards and 39.3 points per game. Tulane has given up 131 total points over the span of its last three games.
Freshman defensive back Darion Monroe is the team's leading tackler with 76 stops. Senior Austen Jacks is the best big play producer with 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
There have been quite a few upsets within the league in recent weeks, but the Pirates are unlikely to be the next victim. The triangle of Carden, Cooper, and Hardy will be too much for the Green Wave to keep at bay.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: East Carolina 38, Tulane 24
11/14 10:37:38 ET
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