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East Carolina Face Stiff AAC Challenge This Friday At Tulsa

 Sophomore running back Deneric Prince at 6-1, 214 leads a potent Tulsa running game.
Sophomore running back Deneric Prince at 6-1, 214 leads a potent Tulsa running game. (AP Photo)

After a bye week, East Carolina returns to action on Friday when they travel to 2-1 Tulsa to take on a much improved Golden Hurricane ball club.

The Pirates enter the week as a 19-point underdog with a 1-3 record and 1-2 in AAC play thus far.

Tulsa gives up just over 18 points a game while averaging just over 27 points a game offensively. Much of their success comes through the air where quarterback Zach Smith at quarterback averages right at 224 yards a game.

Keylon Stokes has 14 receptions this season to lead the Golden Hurricane and the run game is also very potent at 164 yards a contest led by running back Deneric Prince.

Most of the players who were out against Navy will be back including quarterback Holton Ahlers who returns this week under center after being out due to a positive Covid19 test.

D’Ante Smith could very well return at offensive tackle although Noah Henderson will likely still remain out for this upcoming Friday.

On Monday head coach Mike Houston said limiting turnovers is going to be among the big keys if the Pirates are to be successful against Tulsa.

“I think that’s the name of the game ever week and you’ve seen Tulsa’s defense is just outstanding again this year,” Houston told PirateIllustrated.com, “The 16-7 game against Oklahoma State was a very impressive defensive performance and the last two games against UCF and USF, so it’s going to be a challenge. We’ve got to do a great job with ball security and do a great job with execution.”

The Golden Hurricane is both big and physical up front defensively with big nose tackle Tyarise Stevenson, defensive tackle Jackson Player, defensive end Anthony Goodlow and will linebacker Zaven Collins who Houston says is one of the best in the AAC generating an abundance of disruption for opposing offenses.

“We’ve got to match their physicality up front but we’ve got to make sure we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot. So as few self inflicted errors as possible which will allow us to be more productive in the run and passing game.”

Overall it comes down largely to execution and avoiding mental breakdowns and missed assignments both when ECU has the football and on defense against a Tulsa team that has shown a propensity to take advantage of miscues and mistakes.

“We’ve got to continue to build on our last two games out, in that in both of those games we executed at a much higher level than we did earlier in the season,” said Houston.

“We had very few MA’s up front on the offensive line against Navy and South Florida and because of that execution, we were very productive in the run game. The quarterback had a lot more time in the pocket.”

Houston said the team had a quality practice this past Saturday and everything moves up one day this week with a 9 o’clock ET Friday game time start at Chapman Stadium in Tulsa.

Stay tuned this week for continuing coverage of ECU - Tulsa here on PirateIllustrated.com as the Pirates try to pick up their second victory of the season.