This weekend the winless Southern Miss Golden Eagles (0-5) will travel to Greenville, NC to face the East Carolina Pirates (4-2). The Eagles are coming off an open week, while the Pirates are coming off a close overtime loss to Tulane. The Golden Eagles are 16-3 in games played in Greenville.
Southern Miss is returning to action following a bye week. The game before the bye week, the Eagles suffered a crushing, 24-23 loss to Florida International. The game ended with the potential game winning field goal blocked as time expired.
ECU will be returning back home after three games away from the electric Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Last week the Pirates lost to Tulane, 36-33, in triple overtime. Much like the Southern Miss versus FIU game, it came down to a missed field goal opportunity.
The Eagles come into this game ranked 120th in the nation in scoring offense (12.2 ppg) and 117th in total offense. Lack of experience in the trenches and inconsistent play at the quarterback position has plagued an offense that looked so promising at the start of the season. The offense has become very predictable because the offense lacks a rushing attack, averaging just 75 yards per game. The offense is yet to score a rushing touchdown.
Quarterback Allan Bridgford has had success in the passing game as he has thrown for 1,118 yards, which ranks him 6th in the conference and 70th in the nation. Freshman slot receiver Tyre’oune Holmes is tied for 5th in conference with 32 receptions.
The Golden Eagles defense, nicknamed “The Nasty Bunch,” has held three opponents under 25 points. The defense is allowing 37 points a game. The team’s stats are misleading as they have had to face the high scoring offenses of Nebraska and Boise State. Both teams are arguably in the top tier of their conferences.
This game will feature the Golden Eagles’ strength against the Pirates’ strength. The Eagles pass defense is allowing 179 passing yards per game, which is good enough for second in the conference. Meanwhile, ECU’s offense has been rewriting the single game and single season record books. Quarterback Steve Carden threw for a school record 480 yards last week, while receiver Justin Hardy was on the receiving end of a school record 17 receptions and 230 yards. The team accumulated a total of 543 yards of total offense last week at Tulane.
The ECU defense is as good as the offense, but with less flair. Last week, the defense did not allow any offensive touchdowns. The defense should not have trouble slowing down the running game of the Golden Eagles as they allow only 81 yards per game; that just so happens to be 3rd in the nation. Where the defense struggles is defending the pass, which is one of the strengths of the Southern Miss offense.
The Pirates return home after a tough loss and are looking forward to running up the score on a winless foe; hopefully the Golden Eagles do not roll over this game. This week has strength versus strength: Southern Miss’ pass defense versus ECU’s passing attack.
The Eagles have a chance, if they are able to limit turnovers and mistakes. I believe the final score will be in the ballpark of 35-21, ECU. The Pirates are too good overall for a young Southern Miss team.
Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium from Greenville, N.C. The game can be seen on the Fox Sports, as well as be heard on WXRR-FM, Rock 104 (104.5), in the Hattiesburg/Laurel area.