East Carolina announces 2009 football schedule

Published 8:49 am Thursday, March 12, 2009

By Staff
ECU Sports Information
GREENVILLE - A nationally-televised Thursday night home contest against FedEx Orange Bowl winner Virginia Tech and road battles at North Carolina and Big East member West Virginia mark just three of seven games in which the Pirates will face bowl participants, according to a release of East Carolina’s complete 2009 football schedule by Conference USA officials Wednesday.
The Pirates’ new slate also features at least three regular season appearances on the ESPN family of networks, all coming in successive fashion.
The television schedule includes a Tuesday, Oct. 27 visit to Memphis and a Sunday, Nov. 15 clash at Tulsa in addition to the matchup with the Hokies on Thursday, Nov. 5.
East Carolina will open the season with back-to-back meetings against the Mountaineers, facing three-time Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) champion Appalachian State at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Sept. 5 before traveling to Morgantown for a meeting against 2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl winner West Virginia a week later.
The season opener will renew an in-state football rivalry that covers 77 years and will mark ECU’s first matchup against a FCS, formerly known as Division I-AA, opponent since 2001. Although the series spans 29 games, the Pirates and Mountaineers haven’t met since East Carolina posted a 38-21 road victory in 1979.
ECU will follow by squaring off against West Virginia for the eighth-straight season, attempting to put together consecutive victories for the first time in series history and snap a 12-game winless streak at Milan Puskar Stadium.
East Carolina will remain on the road to battle the first of two Atlantic Coast Conference opponents when it faces North Carolina in Chapel Hill Sept. 19. The Tar Heels will host the Pirates at Kenan Stadium for the first time since 2001 after more recent contests at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in 2003 and 2007 - the latter resulting in a 34-31 ECU triumph.
The Pirates and Hokies, who are currently engaged in a nine-game series which began at Blacksburg in 2007 and continued with East Carolina’s 27-22 win at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium last fall, will play each other in Greenville for the sixth time and first since a 45-28 Virginia Tech victory in 2000. The Hokies, who finished their season with a 20-7 triumph over Cincinnati in the FedEx Orange Bowl last January, stood No. 15 in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll.
In addition to playing three BCS-member programs who earned bowl invitations a year ago, the Pirates will face four of last season’s six Conference USA bowl qualifiers on their schedule. Meetings against Rice (Texas), Memphis (St. Petersburg), Tulsa (GMAC) and Southern Miss (New Orleans) will complete ECU’s schedule against post-season participants.
“As we have done over the last four years, we’ll continue to put a premium on challenging our program to play at the highest possible level,” fifth-year head coach Skip Holtz said. “The opportunity for us to consistently compete on a national stage against championship contenders from the ACC and Big East enables us to move forward in the big picture and remain focused on meeting and perhaps exceeding goals we set each season.
“It is also clearly evident that Conference USA offers much parity, and because it has developed into one of the most competitive leagues in the country, we certainly have our work cut out for us,” Holtz added.
ECU will officially open defense of its C-USA title Sept. 26 when it hosts UCF in the league opener before visiting Marshall and SMU on Oct. 3 and Oct. 10, respectively. The Pirates will welcome Rice to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for the first time since 2005 a week later on Oct. 17 to end a run of seven consecutive weekends of action.
After a 10-day layoff, East Carolina will travel to Memphis for the first of three straight nationally-televised contests. The Pirates will follow by meeting Virginia Tech nine days later before enjoying another 10-day break to prepare for a return trip to H.A. Chapman Stadium in Tulsa for a rematch of the 2008 C-USA Championship Game - a contest ECU captured 27-24 last Dec. 6.
The Pirates will wrap up regular season play with consecutive home games against league divisional foes UAB (Nov. 21) and Southern Miss (Nov. 28)
While East Carolina will close the campaign by playing three of the last four games at home, the Pirates will see Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium only three times in their first eight contests and only once in a five-game span after opening the year against Appalachian State.