Start Time: 7:00 P.M. ET, Thursday, Oct. 22
Location: Dowdy Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, North Carolina
Records: East Carolina: 4-3. Temple: 6-0. East Carolina leads the overall series 8-4.
Live Stats: here.
Line: East Carolina -3. Over/Under: 52.
East Carolina Outlook: Before the two quarterback system, the East Carolina Pirates were 1-2 with no offensive point total above 31 points. Since then, they have averaged 38 points per game and came one drive away from beating BYU. With the ability to start one quarterback (Summers or Kemp) and bring in the other when needed has forced defenses to prepare for two completely different, yet very similar offenses. Running the ball has been much more effective since then with Chris Hairston and Anthony Scott finding more space as teams focus on Summers.
Passing the ball has been very effective for the Pirates with a 47.4% success rate on passing plays. Part of that success comes from an offensive line that has only given up eight sacks when Kemp is on the field. Kemp has been very good for the most part, but needs to limit his turnovers. Jones, Williams, Grayson, and Brown may be the best quartet of pass catchers in all of the AAC with 66.5% of all targets headed their way. The Pirates are averaging just over 285 yards per game in the air.
Did the Pirates turn the corner on defense versus Tulsa? Taking out garbage time statistics, the Pirates held the vaunted Tulsa defense to virtually nothing in the first three quarters. The linebacker trio of Bigger, Overton, and Williams have combined for 153 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 11 sacks on the season. The Pirates will give up yards and a few points, but do a great job for the most part of bending but not breaking.
Temple Outlook: Quick. When was the last time Temple were nationally ranked?
Hint: it was a long time ago. 1979 to be exact.
If Temple is going to stay unbeaten, they’d be best served by sticking to the same formula that’s brought them success so far this season: run the ball and force turnovers.
Simply put, the Temple run game is the engine that makes everything go. As a team, they’ve rushed for 971 yards through six games, averaging almost four yards per rush. Junior running back Jahad Thomas is the workhorse, accounting for 758 of those yards, averaging 126 yards per game with 10 touchdowns on the year. Thomas is averaging 5.21 yards per carry, and will be key for the Owls against a Pirate defense that is allowing 186 rushing yards per game. While most of the focus will be on Thomas and the run game, quarterback P.J. Walker will need to improve off of last week’s performance to take some pressure off the run game.
As for the Temple defense, they go up against the always dangerous Pirate offense. ECU is averaging 32.1 points and 432.2 yards per game. While not as lethal as in years past, quarterback Blake Kemp and running back Chris Hairston are more than capable of giving the Owl defense fits. Temple has done an outstanding job so far this season on defense, ranking #13 in the nation in total defense by allowing only 296 yards per game.
However, where the Owls excel on defense is also where the Pirates are the most vulnerable: turnovers. Temple has forced 13 turnovers so far this season, while the Pirates have turned the ball over 13 times.
Jeremy: This is a game that seems to set up well for lots of James Summers at quarterback. I would not be surprised to see Kemp get the start, but with his turnover issues, we could see Summers quickly. The Pirates will move the ball and cannot afford to kick field goals. I expect this game to come down to the final minutes, but Temple is on a roll. Temple 28, East Carolina 24.
Brian: So, how will Temple fare against the Pirates? It’s interesting that ECU opened as two point favorites, especially considering that Temple is coming into the game 6-0 and ranked #22 in the polls. While the Pirates have the ability to hang with the Owls, Temple should be able to control the clock with the run game and stifle the ECU offense long enough to come away with a close win. Temple 38, East Carolina 35.