Location: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium - Greenville, NC
Date: Saturday, November 7
Time: 12:00 pm ET
Records: East Carolina 1-4 (1-3 AAC), Tulane 3-4 (1-4 AAC)
Betting Line: Tulane -5; O/U 61
All-Time Series: East Carolina leads 11-5
Last Meeting: Tulane 24, East Carolina 18 (November 10, 2018)
The Green Wave are coming off of their first conference win after demolishing Temple 38-3 in New Orleans last weekend. After looking shaky in their first six games, Tulane’s defense finally showed up against the Owls, limiting them to only a field goal in the game’s first five minutes. Freshman quarterback Michael Pratt continued to look impressive, throwing for 205 yards and 2 touchdowns along with rushing for another touchdown. The Greenies will look to take this momentum into Greensville on Saturday when they match-up against a Pirates team coming off a demoralizing loss.
East Carolina was on the verge of taking down conference front-runner Tulsa last Friday when an officiating error went against the Pirates in the game’s final two minutes. Tulsa running back T.K. Wilkerson looked to have fumbled the ball with 1:52 left in the ballgame and with East Carolina up by 3, however the replay official incorrectly overturned the call taking the turnover away from East Carolina and allowing Tulsa to drive down the field and score a winning touchdown with 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Pirates will look to brush that devastating loss off quickly when they line-up against Tulane this Saturday.
East Carolina is led by junior quarterback, Holton Ahlers. Ahlers is in his third year starting for the Pirates and has looked impressive so far in 2020. On the season Ahlers has thrown for 1,003 yards and nine touchdowns through his first four starts. Ahlers’ favorite weapon is sophomore wide receiver Tyler Snead. While only standing at 5 feet and 7 inches, the diminutive Snead is still a force to be reckoned with. On the year Snead has 302 receiving yards and two touchdowns for the Pirates.
From East Carolina’s Perspective
Since losing to Georgia State in their second game, East Carolina has looked impressive on the year. They almost took down a wily Navy team and had a win stolen from them by the AAC refs against 3-1 Tulsa. The East Carolina offense ranks 55th out of 113 FBS teams that have played on the year. ECU has averaged 401 yards per game on the offensive side of the ball and 5.32 yards per play. While quarterback Holton Ahlers is the star of the Pirates offense, running back Rahjai Harris is also putting together an impressive season. Harris has 448 yards on the ground through ECU’s first five games averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Harris also has three rushing touchdowns on the year.
ECU has four high-caliber options for Holton Ahlers to throw to. Tyler Snead, Blake Proehl, C.J. Johnson, and Audie Omotosho, have combined for 900 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns so far in 2020. While Snead is the star of the quartet, with over 300 receiving yards and 36 receptions through five games, each of the Pirates top four receivers has over 100 receiving yards on the year. Tulane’s secondary, which has struggled to defend the passing game through most of the season, should have their work cut-out for them on Saturday.
The ECU defense did an exceptional job of forcing Tulsa quarterback Zach Smith to make errant throws last weekend, pressuring him into throwing two interceptions and limiting him to only 6.84 yards per attempt. The ECU secondary is led by Warren Saba, who has two interceptions and 17 tackles on the year. Another stand-out in the ECU secondary is sophomore Shawn Dourseau, who has one interception, three pass deflections, and 35 tackles so far this season. Both players will look to shut-down Tulane’s Duece Watts, who had the best game of his collegiate career last weekend against Temple with 114 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.
East Carolina’s rushing attack is led by senior Chris Willis. Willis has two sacks and 15 tackles on the year. Tulane’s freshman quarterback Michael Pratt should also be looking out for defensive back Jireh Wilson. The Jacksonville, NC native has 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles on the season. Expect ECU’s defensive coordinator, Blake Harrell, to draw up some blitz schemes to force the Green Wave’s freshman signal-caller to make rushed decisions in the pocket.
From Tulane’s Perspective:
The Green Wave are flying high after beating Temple 38-3 last weekend in New Orleans. Freshman quarterback Michael Pratt became the first Tulane true freshman starting quarterback to win a game since Terrence Jones in 1985. The Greenies’ offense will look to put up 30 or more points for the sixth week in a row in Greenville.
The two stories of last week for Tulane were the reemergence of Amare Jones as a stalwart running back and the emergence of Duece Watts as a first-rate AAC receiver. Jones, the Frisco, TX native, had been quiet this year after putting together a spectacular sophomore season in 2019. He seems to have woken-up from his first-half of 2020 slumber against Temple, rushing for 92 yards on 12 carries. This comes after only rushing for 103 yards through Tulane’s prior six games before last weekend. Duece Watts, a Jones College product, had five receptions and averaged 22.8 yards per catch against Temple last week. The highlight of the game for Watts was a 52 yard catch from Michael Pratt in the second quarter.
The surprise against Temple for Tulane was their defense. This is a unit that ranks 79th out of 113 FBS teams in total defense. On the season the Green Wave’s defense has given up an average of 439 yards per game and 5.80 yards per play. Against the Owls last weekend the Tulane defense only gave up 222 yards. After having trouble generating turnovers this season through their prior six games, the Greenies’ defense had one interception and one fumble recovery against the Owls last weekend.
The Pirates should look out for Tulane defensive ends Patrick Johnson and Cameron Sample. On the season Johnson and Sample, who are both seniors, have combined for ten sacks and 59 tackles. Sample has also forced one fumble on the year. Tulane’s achilles heel this season has been stopping opponents on third down. While struggling to stop opposing offenses in third-down situations through their first six games, against Temple last weekend the Green Wave defense was able to stop the Owls on third down 75% of the time. Tulane will prioritize stopping a skilled Pirates quarterback in late-down situations this Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
While ECU only has one win on the season and it is against conference bottom-dweller USF, it is clear that they are much more talented than their 1-4 record insinuates. This is a team that features one of the premier quarterbacks and receiving corps in the conference. The Pirates have not only had trouble finishing games against higher-caliber teams in the AAC, they have also been the victim of bad officiating. Tulane is in a critical stage of their season and must-win their second game in a row to salvage what had been a disappointing year through their first five games. Expect Tulane to rise to the occasion in Greenville this Saturday in what should be a shoot-out, riding the arm of an extremely talented freshman quarterback and legs of a very athletic group of running backs.
Prediction: Tulane 41 - East Carolina 38