Start Time: 7:00 PM EST. Friday, October 30.
Location: Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Connecticut
Records: East Carolina: 4-4. Connecticut: 3-5. East Carolina leads the overall series 1-0.
Live Stats: here.
Line: East Carolina -7.5. Over/Under: 50.5.
East Carolina Outlook: The Pirates have been able to do a great job of incorporating two different offenses, a run and a pass offense, depending how a defense prepares for them.
In the run game, James Summers takes the majority of the snaps behind center with Chris Hairston at running back. The duo have combined for 945 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns, sacks not included. Anthony Scott has added another 171 yards on the ground with all three rushing for more than four yards per carry. Despite averaging only 139.8 yards per game as a team, the Pirates run game does just enough to keep the offense balanced.
Blake Kemp is the call when East Carolina wants to pass. The junior has thrown for 1,828 yards and 11 touchdowns for a passing game that puts up nearly 300 yards per game. Five different players have 24 or more catches on the season with Isaiah Jones and Bryce Williams proving to be the top targets. The duo have combined to see 42.4% of all pass attempts headed in their direction. Davon Grayson, Trevon Brown, and Chris Hairston fill out one of the better group of pass catchers in the AAC.
The Pirates defense has improved dramatically from a group that gave up 45 points to Navy earlier in the season. They are still giving up yards in the run game (45.8% success rate allowed), but have been able to get stops on third down to end drives. The 4.0 yards per carry allowed is much better than the average from just a couple of weeks ago. The inability to stop the big pass play came back to bite the Pirates versus Temple. One 50+ yard completion at the wrong time turned the tide late and ended up helping to lose the game for East Carolina. For a secondary that has only three interceptions on the year, giving up the big play is something that has to stop.
Players to watch on the East Carolina defense include: Zeek Bigger, Montese Overton, and Josh Hawkins.
Connecticut Outlook: With Houston and Temple still on the schedule, this is a must win for the Huskies to still have a chance at a bowl berth.
The Huskies have struggled in 2015 to find a consistent running game. Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs is the second leading rusher for the Huskies with sophomore Arkeel Newsome leading the way. The duo have shown signs that they could be great in the future, accounting for 754 of 964 total UConn rushing yards on the season. Newsome is carrying the ball for a 5.0 yards per carry average. Overall, the Huskies are only averaging 3.3 yards per carry and a paltry 120.5 yards per game on the ground.
Shirreffs and company have been much more successful in the passing game with the sophomore quarterback throwing for 1,723 yards on the season. His top targets are wide receiver Noel Thomas and running back Arkeel Newsome. The duo have accounted for 70 catches, 838 yards, and three touchdowns on the season. Thomas’ 56.9% catch rate is a cause for worry as he has 22 more targets than any other player on the team, good for 29% of all attempted passes. Overall, the Huskies are passing for 221.6 yards per game.
Despite not standing out versus the run game or passing game, UConn has been able to keep opponents off of the scoreboard in a surprisingly efficient manner. The defense is giving up only 22.1 points per game, good for #36 nationally. The Huskies do not rank in the top 50 in any defensive advanced statistic and give up 184.5 yards per game on the ground. They will have a hard time stopping the James Summers led portion of the ECU offense.
Players to watch on the UConn defense include: Andrew Adams, Foley Fatukasi, and Jhavon Williams.
Prediction: The Pirates are coming off of a missed chance at an upset versus Temple, so don’t be surprised if they start out a bit flat in the first half. They are the better team and should be able to overcome a bad half. Connecticut is a solid team, but I don’t think they will pull an upset. This should be a fun Friday night game. East Carolina 24, UConn 17.