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Know Thy Foe: East Carolina Pirates

UCF hasn’t played any FBS team more than ECU, but this could be the final meeting

ECU QB Holton Ahlers
Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We continue previewing all 12 opponents the UCF Knights will face in 2022 with the East Carolina Pirates, who are knocking on the door of AAC contention with a familiar face back at QB.

Week 7: ECU Pirates

Kickoff: Saturday, October 22nd (Time TBD), Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, North Carolina


Series: Tied 10-10, 6-5 ECU in Greenville. UCF has won six straight and nine of the last 11, including the last four meetings at ECU.

Last Meeting: Last year — UCF won 20-16 in Orlando

The Knights scored 10 points in the final seven minutes, culminating in Mark-Antony Richards’ one-yard plunge with just 23 seconds remaining. That capped off a clutch 11-play, 64-yard drive that included a key catch from Richards on a 4th & 8 to keep the Knights’ hopes alive.

Johnny Richardson ran for 104 yards and a TD, plus a 49-yard catch and run that sparked the rally.

About the Pirates

This Season: Picked 6th of 11 teams in The American’s Preseason Media Poll

Last Season: 7-5, 5-3 in The American

ECU won five of their last six to land in 4th-place in The American last season that would have been much better were it not for two heart-breaking losses — the one above at UCF, and a 31-24 loss at Houston where they came back from down 14 in the 4th to force overtime and then fumbled the game away in the extra period. They were supposed to play Boston College in the Military Bowl but COVID issues forced that game to be canceled.

Cincinnati’s 2021 Team Stats and Rankings

Category Offense AAC Rank FBS Rank Defense AAC Rank FBS Rank
Category Offense AAC Rank FBS Rank Defense AAC Rank FBS Rank
Rush Yards 173.3 4th 56th 149.1 5th 62nd
Pass Yards 241.2 6th 58th 169.2 1st 2nd
Total Yards 414.5 5th 58th 318.4 2nd 10th
Points 36.4 2nd 13th 16.9 1st 5th

Key Stats: 11th in FBS in 3rd Down Conversions Allowed (32%), 12th FBS in Time of Possession (32:33/game).

Head Coach: Mike Houston

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 02 Duke’s Mayo Classic - East Carolina v Appalachian State
ECU Head Coach Mike Houston
Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Houston enters Year #4 at East Carolina after three highly successful seasons at James Madison, where he went 37-6, including back-to-back 14-1 campaigns that saw him lead the Dukes to the FCS title in 2016 and a runner-up finish to North Dakota State the following year. Houston’s 2016 JMU squad is one of only two teams other than NDSU to win an FCS title in the last ten seasons (Sam Houston State in Spring 2021 was the other).

Before JMU, Houston coached at The Citadel and D-II Lenoir-Rhyne, whom he also led to within one win of a national title in 2013.

Key Players

#12 Holton Ahlers — QB

Redshirt Senior | 6-4, 230 lbs | 2021: 256/414 (61.8%), 3,126 yards, 18 TD/10 INT, 204 rush yards, 6 rush TD

Ahlers enters year five in Greenville as a Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award watch-lister and the most experienced QB in The American. He’s thrown for more than 10,000 yards in his career and has posted 13 300-yard passing games over his 37 lifetime starts.

Fun fact: Even though he throws a football lefty, he does everything else with his right hand.

#34 Miles Berry — LB

Senior | 6-1, 224 lbs | 2021: 53 tackles, 4 passes defended

East Carolina v Memphis
Myles Berry (#34)
Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Berry is the top returning statistical leader on the Pirates’ defense, which lost top tackler Bruce Bivens and interception leader Ja’Quan McMillian. Berry added 1.5 TFLs and 4 QB hurries to his stats but will need to break out for ECU’s defense to move out of the bottom-middle of the pack in The American.

Other Stuff To Know

  • UCF has faced ECU more than any other team — 20 times. The first meeting was back in 1991.
  • These two teams have played every season since 2005 (going back to the Conference USA days) except in 2013, when UCF went to the Fiesta Bowl in its first year in The American while ECU played its final season in C-USA before coming to the AAC in 2014.
  • The Pirates won eight of the first nine meetings, but UCF has won nine of the last 11 going back to 2010.
  • UCF has also won 10 of the 16 meetings as conference mates.
  • ECU has never finished higher than 4th in The American since joining the conference in 2013. Prior to that, from 2005 to 2013, the Pirates finished either first or second in C-USA’s East Division every season but twice, with eight bowl appearances and two Conference USA titles in 2008 and 2009.
  • You thought we were going to go through this entire preview without mentioning Hail Perriman, didn’t you?


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