Pirates take to road in matchup with Bulls

Tampa, FL (SportsNetwork.com) – The 19th-ranked East Carolina Pirates will
attempt to continue their rise in the rankings on Saturday night when they
head to Raymond James Stadium to take on the South Florida Bulls in an
American Athletic Conference bout.

Since suffering a 33-23 loss at South Carolina on Sept. 6, East Carolina has
reeled off three straight victories to move to 4-1. The Pirates took care of
business against SMU in their first-ever AAC matchup, 45-24, and thanks to a
crazy college football week, they were able to jump from No. 22 to No. 19.

“It was a great win, the inaugural win in the league,” ECU coach Ruffin
McNeill said. “I thought our guys missed some opportunities (versus SMU) on
all three sides of the ball, but I thought we did a good job of staying with
that team and pulling out a win.”

USF was able to come away victorious in its first AAC contest, defeating
Connecticut at home on Sept. 19, 17-14, but it followed that up with a 27-10
road loss at Wisconsin on Sept. 27 before going on a bye last week. The Bulls
are 2-3 overall and have played four of five games in their home stadium.

ECU has never beaten USF in four attempts. The Bulls most recently defeated
the Pirates in the 2006 PapaJohns.com Bowl, 24-7.

The key to ECU’s success this season has been its prolific offense, which
ranks fourth in the nation in yardage (581.4 ypg) and eighth in scoring (43.6

Spearheading the high-powered attack is Shane Carden, who has been spectacular
under center in throwing for 1,879 yards (sixth-most in the nation) on 64.8
percent completions, accounting for 18 touchdowns, while throwing only three

“I think Shane’s one of the best quarterbacks in the country and one of the
best quarterbacks in school history,” Ruffin said. “He’s an example of what we
believe in and how we define our team.”

Carden has the good fortune of throwing to one of the country’s best receiving
duos in Isaiah Jones (38 receptions, 453 yards, four TDs) and Justin Hardy (37
receptions, 479 yards, five TDs). Trevon Brown (13 receptions, 249 yards, four
TDs) has also been strong, as has Cam Worthy (11 receptions, 302 yards, TD),
although he’s suspended and not eligible to return until Oct. 23.

Although the offense is pass heavy, the rushing attack still picks up nearly
186 yards per game, paced by the efforts of Breon Allen (43 carries, 380
yards, three TDs).

Although the Pirate defense hasn’t been anything special (25.2 ppg, 366.6
ypg), they have performed more than well enough to support their high-scoring
ways on the other side of the ball.

Zeek Bigger is one of the AAC’s best tacklers with 61 stops to go with an
interception. Brandon Williams has registered 45 tackles, 5.0 TFL and 2.5
sacks, while Josh Hawkins is a ball hawk with three interceptions and another
10 passes defended.

Since scoring 36 points in its season-opening win, USF has failed to top 17
points in any game since, as its season averages on offense have plummeted to
19.4 ppg and 283.4 ypg.

Marlon Mack is in the midst of an outstanding freshman campaign at running
back. On 99 carries, more than half the team’s total, he’s amassed 536 yards
and scored five touchdowns.

Mack’s feats in the backfield have been even more impressive considering how
poorly his quarterbacks have played. Three signal callers have combined for a
completion percentage less than .400 with six interceptions to just two
touchdowns. Mike White (561 yards, two TDs, three INTs) earns the most work.

Rodney Adams is the only receiver of note with 12 receptions for 204 yards and
a score.

The USF offense has done no favors for its defense, which too has disappointed
in allowing 29.0 ppg and 391.8 ypg.

Jamie Byrd has a team-best 41 tackles to go with an interception and a forced
fumble. Nigel Harris (6.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks) and Reshard Cliett (3.0 sacks) have
done an impressive job getting pressure in the backfield.