Thursday, September 24, 2015

East Carolina Hosts Rival Virginia Tech of the ACC

GREENVILLE -- East Carolina will try to capture its fifth-straight victory over an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent when it hosts Virginia Tech for a non-league matchup Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The Pirates, who are in the midst of a schedule that includes four road games in five weeks, have knocked off North Carolina twice, NC State and Virginia Tech once each during its current run of success against the ACC. The contest will also mark a brief break from American Conference play for ECU, which next week will visit SMU for the first time since 2009.

Virginia Tech leads 13-6 ... After the Hokies opened the series with a 37-2 win in 1956, the two programs observed a 31-year hiatus before meeting on an annual basis for eight seasons beginning in 1987 ... After ECU won four of the first seven matchups, Virginia Tech rolled off  six straight before the Pirates snapped the streak by upsetting the Hokies 27-22 in Charlotte in 2008 ... Virginia Tech has won six of eight in Greenville and seven of 10 in Blacksburg ... The Pirates haven’t defeated the Hokies at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium since 1992.

It’s been a tale of two halves when examining ECU’s last four games vs. Virginia Tech (‘10, ‘11, ‘13, ‘14) - the Pirates have scored a combined 59 points (14.8), thrown for 684 yards (171.0) and had only one interception in first half action against the Hokies, but have scored just 16 points (4.0), rushed for nine yards (2.3), passed for 279 yards (69.8) and tossed five picks after intermission in those four contests ... Additionally, ECU has held Virginia Tech to a combined 144 (72 ypg) ground yards in its last two matchups - 53 in 2013, 91 in 2014 - after surrendering 241 during the 2011 tilt alone.

Ruffin McNeill (East Carolina ‘80) is 38-29 (.567) in his sixth season at East Carolina, while overall, he is 39-29 (.574) as a collegiate head coach after guiding Texas Tech to a 41-31 victory over Michigan State in the Valero Alamo Bowl Jan. 2, 2010 on an interim basis. When he became ECU’s 20th all-time head football coach 19 days later, McNeill officially finished a 10-year stint on the Red Raider staff. The 2015 campaign marks McNeill’s 30th year at the collegiate level, which includes an earlier stop at East Carolina as the Pirates’ defensive line coach in 1992. In all, he has served on the staff s with eight different programs and spent a combined nine years in defensive coordinator roles at Appalachian State (1993-96), Nevada-Las Vegas (1997-98) and Texas Tech (2007-09). McNeill starred as a four-year letterman at ECU under Pat Dye from 1976-1979 and helped lead the Pirates to their first bowl appearance in the modern era when East Carolina defeated Louisiana Tech in the ‘78 Independence Bowl.