ECU - USM: Annual Slobber Knocker

GREENVILLE, N.C. - Southern Miss(0-5/0-1) has gone from a team that has winning seasons every year to one who has lost 17 straight games dating back to Christmas eve of 2011 in a 24-17 win over Nevada.
The latest loss came at home to the hands of Florida International by a score of 24-23 last Saturday at The Rock.
It has been a year and a half long nightmare for the Golden Eagles ever since Larry Fedora left Hattiesburg. This week East Carolina will try to avoid being the team that ended the streak.
The Pirates come into this week's contest with a 4-2 record after losing in triple overtime to Tulane in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome last Saturday afternoon in a game that was very winable. Mistakes down the stretch and missed opportunities find ECU scratching their heads for answers this week.
Ruffin McNeill says it's always the hardest hitting game of the year when the Pirates take on the Golden Eagles and this week should be no different.
Suspensions and injuries have taken a toll on ECU(4-2/2-1). The big question this week is who will be available and who is either still out injured or will remain on suspension. Coach Ruff says that Jeremy Grove is close to returning, but they are being smart about monitoring his reps while wide receiver Davon Grayson and linebacker Jeton Beavers are out for the season with knee injuries. Fullback Zico Pasut is looking at six to eight weeks of rehab for his left foot injury. Cory Hunter, Jake Geary and Jimmy Williams will all miss the Southern Miss game as well. Terry Williams, Danny Webster and Quataye Smyre all remain suspended indefinitely.
Coach McNeill had praise for running back Vintavious Cooper who played in a very physical contest one week after a hard hit knocked him out of the Middle Tennessee game. Ruff called Cooper a "big time, tough hombre. He was a leader the whole game. He never says a word. He was beat up like a boxer the next day. I'm proud of Tay. No excuses, no complaints and no comparisons."
McNeill talked about preparing for Southern Miss. on Monday.
"We've got to get ready for Southern Miss. They're always a tough football game. They've had a tough season so far, but you know how they built that program and that's the same way we built this program. The most immediate goal is Southern Miss and the most immediate goal a great game plan today and tomorrow is to have a great practice," said Ruffin McNeill, "I like where we are at after six games. We lost two games by a total of eight points. There were some experiences that were positive and some things that were tough, but the key is to not let the same thing happen twice. As a player and a coach, Southern Miss has always been a big boy pad day. They are the most physical team I ever played against. They've had to do it the hard way. Having played and coached against them, we know how they were built. They take their program seriously."
Fourth year ECU football coach Ruffin McNeill addressed the press on Monday to recap the Tulane loss and to address the burning questions of the day. Catch the latest in PI-TV Southern Miss Week coverage with the Ruffin McNeill Monday Press Conference here on