ECU looks for fourth straight C-USA victory
By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — East Carolina looks to maintain its share of first place in the Conference USA East standings when it battles the UAB Blazers today.
ECU is tied with Southern Miss (4-3, 3-1), who plays host to UCF Sunday night, atop the standings. The Eagles, having beaten the Pirates 28-21 earlier in the season, hold the tiebreaker advantage.
The Pirates (4-4, 3-1) will look to shake off last week’s 34-20 loss to N.C. State and win their fourth straight conference game. They’ll do so against a UAB team (2-5, 1-2) that got shellacked 49-10 by Houston a week ago.
Holtz knows his Pirates can’t take any team lightly, especially considering the Blazers knocked off ECU 17-12 last year. That gave the Blazers a 4-2 lead in the series.
UAB has fallen to the likes of Michigan State (55-18), Florida State (34-24) and Houston earlier this year.
The Pirates are averaging 27.9 and allowing 34.1 points per game. ECU is gaining an average of 340.4 yards of offense (212.6 passing and 127.8 rushing) and surrendering 454.4 yards (309.6 passing and 144.8 rushing) on defense.
On the other side, the Blazers are scoring an average of 20.4 points and allowing 32.4 per game. UAB picks up, on average, 312.9 yards of offense (221.5 passing and 101.4 rushing) and gives up 481.3 yards (240.7 passing and 240.6 rushing) on defense.
Senior running back Chris Johnson, tenth on the all-time career rushing list with 2,152 yards, leads the Pirate backfield with 593 yards and eight touchdowns.
Quarterback Rob Kass has completed 66-of-120 passes (55 percent) for 795 yards. The sophomore has thrown six touchdowns, matching Patrick Pinkney for the team lead, and four interceptions.
Jamar Bryant leads the ECU receiving corps with 29 catches for 415 yards and three touchdowns.
Johnson has 24 receptions for 313 yards and four touchdowns out of the backfield, while Phillip Henry has added 24 grabs for 252 yards.
Van Eskridge leads the ECU defensive unit with 68 tackles. Pierre Belle, tied with Leon Best for the team-lead with two interceptions, is next on the list with 64 stops.
Quentin Cotton and Fred Wilson each have 48 takedowns.
Zack Slate has 44 tackles, including a team-best 10.5 for loss. That includes four quarterback sacks, which ties him with C.J. Wilson (25 tackles, ECU-best eight QB hurries) for the team lead.
Sophomore Rashaud Slaughter leads the Blazers in rushing with 237 yards.
UAB quarterback Sam Hunt has completed 103-of-217 passes (47.5 percent) for 1,357 yards. The senior has thrown eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Freshman Frantrell Forrest has 25 catches for 372 yards and four scores. Forrest, who has a kickoff return for a touchdown, averages 28.5 yards per return.
Sophomore Joseph has hauled in 24 passes for 410 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensive back Will Dunbar, who has two interceptions, tops UAB with 66 tackles.
Linebacker Joe Henderson has 53 tops, including a team-high four QB sacks, and two interceptions.
Defensive back Kevin Sanders leads the Blazers with three interceptions.
Today’s homecoming game, which kicks off at 3:30 p.m. inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, will be ECU’s last home game for nearly a month. The Pirates play at Memphis next week and at Marshall on Nov. 10. After getting its first bye week on Nov. 17, ECU will wrap up regular-season play at home Nov. 24 against Tulane.