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Taking a Closer Look: East Carolina Pirates

A guide of how and when to view and listen to the game, plus an overview of the East Carolina coaching staff, statistics, players, and trends to know.

ORLANDO - Coming off a dominating offensive performance against Tulane, winning 52-31, East Carolina will come into the Bounce House with a three-game winning streak. The Knights will be challenged by a balanced offense and a defense that tends to be opportunistic.

The Pirates struggled in 2019 and 2020, but appear to be headed in the right direction now. If East Carolina can knock off the Knights, that would mean a 2-0 record in the American Athletic Conference standings.

Here’s a look this Saturday’s game, beginning with the ways to view and listen:

Game Date: Saturday, Oct. 9

Start Time: 6:00 EST

Television: ESPN+

Radio: 96.9 FM

Stream: ESPN

Here’s a closer look at the head man for East Carolina, the results for the Pirates through five games, team statistics and players to know.

East Carolina will be led by Head Coach Mike Houston, in his third season at the helm of the Greenville, N.C. institution. His record through two-plus seasons leading East Carolina stands at 10-16. Here are the Pirates’ records since Coach Houston arrived:

2019: 4-8 (1-7 AAC record)

2020: 3-6 (3-5 AAC record)

2021: 3-2 (1-0 AAC record)

East Carolina Head Football Coach Mike Houston

East Carolina Head Football Coach Mike Houston

Coach Houston’s primary assistants would be Offensive Coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick, who’s been with the Pirates since 2018, and Defensive Coordinator Blake Harrell, who joined the East Carolina program in 2020.

Coach Kirkpatrick is known as a quarterbacks and passing game coach, and he coached a part of a championship team with Coach Houston while they worked together at James Madison, winning the 2016 FCS Championship. Coach Kirkpatrick was the offensive coordinator for that team.

Did you know? Coach Harrell once coached now UCF linebacker Bryson Armstrong while at Kennesaw State University, as he mentored the linebackers. Under his tutelage, the East Carolina defense attempts to create turnovers. The Pirates currently reside at plus-five from the always important turnover margin category, due in part to Coach Armstrong.

2021 East Carolina Statistics

2021 East Carolina Statistics

Against East Carolina’s toughest defensive opponent, South Carolina, the Pirates were held to just 268 yards of total offense and scored just 17 points (only 3 points after halftime). During last Saturday’s game against Tulane, however, the Pirates fared much better with 612 yards of total offense and scoring 52 points.

From the Tulane game, signal caller Holton Ahlers played his best football of the season, completing 22 of 34 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns. He did not throw an interception. Not to be outdone, the rushing attack had a tremendous effort as well.

At running back, Keaton Mitchell ran 15 times for 222 yards, a 14.8 average, and rushed for two touchdowns. Mitchell’s elite speed and natural athleticism make him one of the nation’s most explosive skill position players. On defense, several players help to form a unit that creates big plays, but there’s one particular player to note.

Cornerback Ja’Quan McMillian leads the Pirates by making big plays. He’s intercepted a pass in each of the last three games.

Offensive Players to Know

There’s firepower at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end. Of note, the Pirates tend to spread the football amongst the wide receivers fairly well.

Quarterback

Ahlers, 101/170, 1,266 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions.

Running Back

Mitchell, 60 attempts, 574 yards, 9.6 average, four rushing touchdowns; 14 receptions, 145 yards, 10.4 average, one receiving touchdown.

Rahjai Harris, 63 attempts, 219 yards, 3.5 average, two rushing touchdowns; 12 receptions for 104 yards 8.7 average, and one receiving touchdown.

Wide Receiver

Tyler Snead, 22 receptions, 280 yards, 12.7 average, and two receiving touchdowns; Snead also completed two of four passes this season, with both completions going for touchdowns.

East Carolina wide receiver Tyler Snead is a threat receiving or throwing the football.

East Carolina wide receiver Tyler Snead is a threat receiving or throwing the football.

CJ Johnson, 16 receptions, 217 yards, 13.7 average, and one receiving touchdown.

Jsi Hatfield, eight receptions, 184 yards, 23.0 average, and one receiving touchdown.

Audie Omotosho, 13 receptions, 179 yards, 13.8 average, and no touchdowns.

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Tight End

Shane Calhoun, 11 receptions, 150 yards, 13.6 average, and one receiving touchdown.

Ryan Jones, seven receptions, 96 yards, 13.7 average, and two receiving touchdowns

Defensive Players to Know

Beyond McMillian, the Pirates should be considered a balanced unit, and one with some considerable experience, sans defensive line.

Defensive Line

Suirad Ware, 11 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss, and two quarterback hurries.

Immanuel Hickman, 15 tackles, two sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss.

Rick D’Abreu, 15 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss, and two quarterback hurries.

Linebacker

Myles Berry, 28 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and two quarterback hurries.

Bruce Bivens, 24 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss, and one quarterback hurry.

Xavier Smith, 23 tackles, one-half a sack, two tackles for loss, one pass broken up, and one quarterback hurry.

Jeremey Lewis, 22 tackles, 1.5 sacks, three tackles for loss, and two quarterback hurries.

Cornerback

Ja’Quan McMillian, 33 tackles, three tackles for loss, and leads the nation in passes broken up and intercepted at 12 and four respectively.                      

East Carolina Cornerback Ja'Quan McMillian

East Carolina Cornerback Ja'Quan McMillian

Malik Fleming, 15 tackles, five passes broken up, and one interception.

Safety

Jireh Wilson, 25 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss, one interception, and pass broken up.

DJ Ford, 22 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one fumble recovery, and two passes broken up.

For UCF insights, college football news, and recruiting information go to: The Daily Knight podcast. It will be found on iTunes and Spotify. For more UCF and recruiting information, go to Twitter: @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation, as well as my YouTube Channel and Instagram page. Like and Subscribe!

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