Let’s go deeper into the numbers of the UH/ECU game. This isn’t your typical preview:
Don’t Expect The Team That Played Temple Last Week
Temple embarrassed East Carolina last week, 49-6, in Philly. But don’t expect that ECU to show up today. The Pirates have scored 79 total points in their last two home games (41 vs UNC, 37 vs Old Dominion) but just 19 in 2 road games (13 at USF, 6 at Temple). This team is a mile better at home – despite losing to a really bad FCS team in the opener.
Bonus stat #2: In those 10 drives, 7 plays and 49 of the 119 yards came on one drive in the 2nd quarter. Meaning, in the other nine drives, ECU picked up just 70 yards on 36 plays. Less than two yards per play.
In their two home wins, the Pirates ran the ball well (220 and 179 yards, respectively) which opened up their passing game. UH has been very good at limiting opposing offenses on the ground – in all 5 games this season, UH has held the opponent under their rushing average. The Cougar defense needs to eliminate ECU’s rushing attack, forcing them into a lot of uncomfortable passing situations.
Open Competition At QB
ECU went back to the drawing board this week and reopened their QB competition. Three guys – sophomore Reid Herring and freshmen Holton Ahlers and Kingsley Ifedi – all battled to claim the starting job. ECU has not named a starter for the UH game but Herring has been the guy all year and is considered the best passer of the three. I fully expect him to get the call against our 128th pass defense.
Herring is an average passer (54% completion rate, 6 TD/5 INT) and his passer rating of 107 is 115th in the country (D’Eriq King is 15th in FBS with a 168 rating). There’s no reason to think Herring will have success against UH on his own. But the D’Onofrio bend bend bend but don’t break defense has made some bad QBs look pretty good over the last 17 games.
Herring is simply not a good enough passer to pick apart the Coogs unless he gets help from our DC.
3rd Down Could Decide The Game
I think this game will be won or lost on 3rd down. In their two home wins, ECU was 18/37 on 3rd down – almost 50%. Last week, they were just 4 of 18 (22%) in the blowout loss to Temple. For the year, the Pirates are pedestrian (40% – 62nd nationally) while UH has been bad on 3rd down defense (90th in the country – up from 108 before the Tulsa game).
With limited talent, ECU needs to play keep-away to beat better teams. They need to eat up clock on sustained drives and to find a way to convert on 3rd down. UH must get off the field on 3rd down early in drives. UH can’t afford to play another 90+ defensive snaps on the road.
The more intriguing match-up on 3rd down is the UH offense vs the ECU defense. UH is 28th in 3rd down offense (45%) this year while the ECU defense is 33rd this season in 3rd down defense (33%).
33rd in 3rd down at 33%.
Their 3rd down defense is tremendous considering the Pirates were ranked 128th last year in third down defense (giving up 52%). ECU has also gotten much better all over the defense – they are allowing 15 points and 190 yards less per game than in 2017.
The Pirates gave up so many big plays last year that they did not face a ton of 3rd downs – just 150 in 12 games (UH faced 52 more 3rd downs in the same number of games). But the two teams gave up basically the same number of conversions: 78 for ECU and 79 for the Coogs. Even when they were able to get teams to 3rd down the Pirates couldn’t stop anyone.
The UH offense has to show up the way they have most of the season. If this UH offense is what we’ve come to expect, the Coogs will drop 50+ and ECU goes into the win column.
- ECU is averaging just 24 ppg which is good for 103rd in the country. UH is 100 spots better (3rd nationally at 50 ppg).
- Last season, ECU averaged 25 ppg and UH went for 28 ppg.
- ECU will be wearing their chrome helmets for the first time in 2018. UH goes with a red/white/red uni combo – breaking out the red pants for the first time on the road this season.
- Last season, UH needed only 48 played to score 52 points on ECU.
- The Coogs have played only 1 regular season game in Greenville since 2003.
- UH & ECU have played 13 times (dating back to 1997). A win for UH tonight ties the series 7-7.
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