About East Carolina
As we can imagine, you’ve all been so busy worrying about getting tickets before the 12:21 kickoff that you’ve completely forgotten to check out East Carolina to see what your Gamecocks are up against this Saturday. Don’t worry, Garnet Report’s got you covered.
For one, ECU is not your average tune-up opponent. In fact, over the past 15 years, the Pirates of Conference USA have earned the reputation of “giant killers,” due to the number of top-10 opponents they’ve taken down. Aside from winning three of their last five games against South Carolina, ECU has also beaten Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Boise State, and Miami (FL) in recent years.
But despite ECU’s reputation for playing well against tough opponents, they’ve hit a bit of a rut since the departure of former coach Skip Holtz. The Pirates finished 2011 with a 5-7 record, and Coach Ruffin McNeill doesn’t seem to be the replacement ECU fans were hoping for, with a record of only 12-14 in two seasons at the helm. However, with 14 starters returning, there is hope for the ECU season.
Last week, the Pirates beat Appalachian State 35-13 at home, though the score was a bit deceptive. Coach McNeill even admitted that the game didn’t go as planned. There were plenty of mistakes, and the ECU offense was stagnant for the majority of the first half, barely amassing over 100 yards. Ahead only 14-13 with less than three minutes left in the third quarter, it looked like the Pirates could be in danger of dropping their home opener to an FCS opponent. However, junior Lance Ray soon took a kickoff back 90 yards for a touchdown, sparking a 21-point ECU run to secure the win. Overall, it was a total team win for McNeill’s bunch of players, with the offense accounting for only 3 of ECU’s 5 touchdown.
Leading the way for ECU is new quarterback Rio Johnson, the junior who threw for 242 passing yards and 3 total touchdowns in leading the spread offense against Appalachian State. He has been compared to former ECU quarterback Dominique Davis, who torched South Carolina’s defense for 260 yards and 5 total touchdowns in the 2011 match-up in Bank of America Stadium. The rushing game won’t be much of a problem for the Gamecock front seven, as Carolina was able to shore up a committee of much more talented backs from Vandy last week. With no dominant back, the ECU rushing attack was only able to gain 148 yards against a far less talented Appalachian State defense. ECU also features many options at receiver, though none are as talented as the SEC receivers the Gamecock secondary are used to defending. Rio Johnson’s go-to receiver will be sophomore Justin Hardy, who racked up 6 catches last week.