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Pirates prepare for long journey

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — East Carolina will make its longest trek in the Skip Holtz era, and the second farthest in school history, when the Pirates travel to El Paso, Texas, for Saturday’s Conference USA game.
The Pirates (3-3, 2-1) and UTEP Miners (4-2, 2-0), who lead the C-USA East and C-USA West divisions respectively, will be meeting for the first time. ECU will cover 1,905 miles to play the game, which will kick off at 9:05 p.m. EST.
The Pirates, who made a 1,276-mile journey to face Houston on Sept. 29, won’t return to Greenville until approximately 7 Sunday morning.
ECU’s longest trip in school history was a 3,049-mile venture to face the University of Washington in Seattle on Sept. 25, 1993. Washington took a 35-0 win in that game.
The Pirates are coming off a 52-38 win over Central Florida. Holtz, 15-15 in three years at ECU, credited the crowd for helping his team pulled out the victory.
Unfortunately for ECU, it was another rough game as a handful of players got banged up. Several key players may miss Saturday’s game.
While defensive end Marcus Hands (shoulder), offensive lineman Josh Coffman (shoulder) and running back Jonathan Williams (ankle) are out, linebackers Quentin Cotton and Pierre Bell are questionable with shoulder injuries.
Linebacker Jeremy Chambliss is also suffering from a shoulder injury and is listed as probable for Saturday’s game.
Holtz seems especially concerned about his linebacking corp.
Also listed as probable are tight end J.R. Kraemer (thumb), defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell (ankle), defensive back Darryl Reynolds (upper leg) and running back Norman Whitley (shoulder).
Offensive tackle Willie Barton is doubtful because of an ankle injury.
Senior running back Chris Johnson is healthy, which bodes well for the Pirates. Johnson had a school single-game record of 372 all-purpose yards in the win over UCF. He also scored four times, including a 96-yard kickoff return that helped earn Johnson the C-USA Special Teams Player of the Week.
Johnson, who scored twice on carries, once through the air and once on the kickoff return, averaged 48.5 yards per kickoff return (194 yards total) against the Knights. He also led ECU in rushing (89 yards) and receiving (89).
UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe was the Offensive Player of the Week and Rice free safety Andrew Sendejo was the Defensive Player of the Week.