Saturday’s matinee matchup between East Carolina and USF will feature two teams, which are polar opposites on paper so far in 2017. However, the Pirates are far from a pushover for the Bulls, especially at home.
Just ask N.C. State, who fell to ECU at Dowdy–Ficklen Stadium last year, or Virginia Tech, who lost in front of 50,000 Pirate fans draped in purple in 2015. The season before that, it was North Carolina who fell inside of Dowdy-Ficklen.
When top programs, such as No. 18 USF, come to Greenville, the Pirates show up to play. And if USF plays down to their opponent like they did against Stony Brook, the Pirates have the weapons to make them pay.
“Every game is a trap game,” USF Defensive Coordinator Brian Jean-Mary said. “You have to go out and play your best every week because everybody has a skilled player, whether it’s a receiver, running back or quarterback.
“If you’re not careful and they get going, they’re good enough to beat you.”
Despite a porous defense that’s given up more yards per game than any other school in the nation, ECU’s quarterback Thomas Sirk leads the AAC with an average of 275.7 passing yards a game. His favorite target, Davon Grayson, recorded over 200 yards receiving in last week’s game alone.
Two of East Carolinas losses in 2017 were against teams ranked in the AP-Top 25. The other loss was against two-time reigning FCS champion James Madison.
Meanwhile, USF hasn’t played a single team with a RPI ranking below 53.
The Pirates have won seven of their last eight home conference openers, and if the Bulls don’t come with their A-game, that number could easily become eight.
A season full of aspirations as high as making the college football playoff could quickly come crashing down against a team who finished 3-9 in 2016.
“The only time you should feel good after your last game is if that’s your retirement game,” Jean-Marry said. “If you still plan on playing next week all you did was put the bull’s-eye squarely on your back. Now those guys at ECU saw a pretty good defensive performance so I know that’s going to get their blood flowing a little bit.”