GREENVILLE, N.C. - Thanksgiving week is upon us and for the Pirates of ECU(7-4/6-1) there is much for which to be thankful.
First, ECU earned their 7th win of the season on Saturday against a Tulane team who showed up determined to muff up the Pirates' season in the Mercedes Benz Superdome.
Secondly, there could very likely be good news on the horizon on the conference affiliation front with Maryland voting today to move from the ACC to the Big Ten. That will likely open up more doors for ECU to fill one of the voids in the Big East that Maryland's exodus is likely to ultimately produce. Rutgers is expected to follow suit.
Word has it that East Carolina has set up an emergency Board of Trustees meeting for Tuesday. One can only assume that the meeting isn't just to sample the egg nog.
For now, all Ruffin McNeill and his 3.0 Pirates can control is what is on the Thanksgiving menu for Friday leftovers and that is a Marshall team who is hungry for it's 6th win and bowl eligility of their own.
The Pirates will take on the mantra "feed me more" this week. Work began late Sunday night to that end and the third year Pirate coach hopes to have a solid, focused week of work to close out the regular season.
No major changes in the depth chart this week for the Marshall game.
Justin Dixon is still out for the season. Three players are listed as questionable with concussions. They include center Josh Clark, deep snapper Charlie Coggins, and strong safety Chip Thompson. Otherwise, the depth chart remains in tact from last week.
The Pirates lost in overtime to the Herd in their last meeting at Edwards Stadium in Huntington, 34-27. ECU has won 9 of 13 meetings between the two schools including 6 of the last 9 contests. The last time the two teams met in Greenville, ECU came away the victors by a score of 37-10.
Ruff says the keys are to start fast, cancel out any noise about postseason, bowls, conference affiliation and the likes and play one play at a time.
"Pressure the quarterback and move the football."
If UCF falls on Saturday to UAB, then ECU heads to Tulsa next week for the Conference USA championship, if ECU can win on Friday. The world will be watching on national television, so this is a good week to make plans to attend the 2pm kickoff for East Carolina - Marshall in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The last chance to see Pirate football this season in Greenville. Weather is expected to be in the lower 60's for senior day.
McNeill emphasized containing the running game and quarterback Rakeem Cato who has passed for nearly 3900 yards this season and hit on nearly 69 percent of his passes.
Kevin Grooms at running back has 755 yards this season and Steward Butler has 521 yards on the ground. Even Remi Watson has nearly 400 yards rushing so this is a potent Thundering Herd ballclub.
CBS College Sports will televise the Conference USA contest. Ben Holden and Todd Christensen will be in town to call the game
along with Evan Washburn on the sidelines for ECU - Marshall.
Holland Addresses the Press on Conference Realignment
East Carolina Director of Athletics Terry Holland talked about Maryland's move to the Big Ten, indicating that there was more to come and he is positioning ECU to be in their best posture for any opportunities that arise.
"It's been mentioned before that Maryland would be a candidate possibly with Penn State being a member of the Big Ten. To be quite honest, I'm surprised they're making the move. It will be interesting to see how it works out. I sure wish them luck. The main thing is to control what we do control and stay focused on what our jobs are here," Holland said, "But at the same time we're concerned about the opportunities for our conference affiliation in the future. We will closely monitor the situation. This the first shoe but it won't be the last shoe to drop. We're always interested in improving the situation for East Carolina University."
When asked by PirateIllustrated.com about the excitement level of the athletic departement with these additional opportunities on the horizon, Holland was honest in his assessment.
"Oh yeah, anytime something like this happens, you're excited but at the same time it creates more work to be done."
Holland talked about football scheduling in the future in the new environment, one where the Pirates have a more reasonable opportunity to eventually vie for one of the big bowls at the end of the season. The importance of strength of schedule while balancing it out for win/loss purposes is something he emphasized.
Catch PI-TV video from Ward Building on the campus of East Carolina University as ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill gets you set for Marshall for Thanksgiving week as well as the very latest from Coach Holland on the realignment issue.
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