Connecticut (1-5) at (18) East Carolina (5-1) (ET)

GAME NOTES: The 18th-ranked East Carolina Pirates will try to continue their
reign atop the American Athletic Conference standings on Thursday night, as
they take on the Connecticut Huskies at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

UConn’s season has been a disappointment from the start, as its only win in
six tries came against an FCS opponent on Sept. 6 in a 19-16 home triumph
versus Stony Brook. The Huskies have lost four in a row since then, and they
dropped to 0-3 in the AAC following a 12-3 loss at Tulane on Oct. 11 prior to
a bye week.

ECU has enjoyed the opposite fate, going 5-1 overall, while placing tied atop
the league standings with UCF at 2-0. The Pirates have ripped off four
straight victories, including a 28-17 road win at USF on Oct. 11. They now
return home to Greenville, where they have gone 3-0 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium
and have won 10-of-11 dating back to 2012.

“The open week was good for us,” ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said. “It was a good
break. We got a chance to (take care) of guys with nicks and bruises, keep the
majority of our older repetition guys sharp and then get the guys we’re
counting on in backup roles some extra reps, so it was perfect timing for
that.”

This marks the first-ever meeting between the newly formed conference rivals.

The Huskies’ struggles this season have come due to their lackluster offense,
which ranks 124th in the nation in scoring (12.8 ppg) and 123rd in yardage
(256.2 ypg). They managed only 217 yards on their home field their last time
out.

With Casey Cochran (17-of-31, 171 yards, INT) out for the season with a
concussion, Chandler Whitmer has seen the majority of the action under center.
He’s completing just 55 percent of his throws for 856 yards, five touchdowns
and three interceptions, but the good news is that he completed greater than
70 percent of his passes in the loss to Tulane.

Geremy Davis is the lone bright spot on offense, overcoming the inconsistent
play of his quarterbacks by tallying 33 receptions for 431 yards and three
touchdowns.

The team rushes for a mere 77.7 ypg. Max DeLorenzo (194 yards), Arkell Newsome
(138 yards) and Ron Johnson (138 yards) all average less than four yards per
carry.

Considering the minimal support given by the offense, UConn’s defense has
performed surprisingly well this season, allowing just 25.7 ppg and 325.0 ypg,
although the unit has created only five turnovers.

Marquise Vann has a team-best 56 tackles to go with 4.0 TFL. Graham Stewart
(44 tackles, 4.5 TFL) has also played well at linebacker, and Cole Ormsby has
two of the team’s seven sacks.

Meanwhile, ECU’s offensive attack is one of the nation’s most prolific,
ranking 12th in scoring (41.0 ppg) and third in yardage (564.7 ypg).

The Pirates are led by their senior signal caller Shane Carden, who’s
completing nearly 66 percent of his passes for 354.8 ypg (fifth in the nation)
with 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions. Carden isn’t much of a threat
to run (73 yards), but he’s added three rushing scores to his resume.

Carden has no shortage of weapons at his disposal. Justin Hardy is one of the
nation’s most talented receivers and has hauled in 47 passes for 593 yards and
five touchdowns. Isaiah Jones (42 receptions, 478 yards, four TDs) has enjoyed
single coverage opposite Hardy, and after serving a two-game suspension, big-
play threat Cam Worthy (16 receptions, 358 yards, TD) is expected to return
this week.

ECU is far from one-dimensional, as it rushes for 193.3 ypg. Breon Allen earns
the most work with 504 rushing yards, 150 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Marquez Grayson has just 19 carries but has amassed 176 yards for an
astounding 9.3 yards per carry.

The Pirates have a stellar defense to pair with their world-class offense. The
unit gives up just 23.8 ppg and 363.8 ypg.

Zeek Bigger is one of the AAC’s most active tacklers, racking up 70 stops.
Josh Hawkins has four interceptions to go with an additional 13 passes
defended. The defense has only tallied 10 sacks, with Fred Presley and Brandon
Williams picking up 2.5 apiece.

With a first place team hosting a last place team, the writing is on the wall
in this matchup. ECU will have no problem dismissing the Huskies and will
likely be able to give its backups work late in the game.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: East Carolina 40, Connecticut 10