Another night game for ECU, UCF
By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Mike Houston said Monday that his ideal football kickoff time is 2 p.m. so he can spend some family time at night after getting home from a game, but he is preparing his East Carolina team again this week for a night kickoff.
The Pirates (3-3, 0-2 American Athletic Conference) will be looking to pull an upset at UCF (4-2, 1-1) on Saturday in a 7 p.m. game in Orlando that will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network. It will be the fifth game this year for each team to begin at 6 p.m. or later, which is normal for the Knights given their success in recent seasons, but comes for an ECU program trying to build back up its national profile.
"I'm getting tired of them and need an afternoon kickoff," Houston joked during his weekly news conference. "An advantage is we've had so many (at night) that the guys did a pretty good job the last few we had against Old Dominion and Temple of handling that schedule. Everybody will be antsy by 7 o'clock. ... Everything is dictated by TV and factors like that and it is what it is, so I'm sure it will give them all day for homecoming at UCF to tailgate and that's why I expect a full house and for it to be very rowdy Saturday night."
In addition to playing again at night, both teams are coming off a bye week. The Pirates lost 27-17 at Temple on Oct. 3, followed one day later by UCF falling 27-24 at Cincinnati in an AAC East showdown that put the Bearcats in major contention to eventually win the league.
"You should be fresher and have a little extra time to prepare, and that's been an advantage for us in the past (at James Madison), but at the same time, they've had an extra week to prepare as well so I don't know if there's an advantage for any one of us over the other," Houston said.
Here's a mid-season look at #AAC football attendance, the top-half of the league in home game average:— Ronnie Woodward (@RonnieW11) October 15, 2019
1. UCF -- 44,415
2. Cincinnati -- 37,893
3. Memphis -- 37,501
4. South Florida -- 35,574
5. #ECU -- 35,155
6. Navy -- 32,398
Pirates are at UCF on Saturday night.
Houston and his staff made some changes to the offensive depth chart following the loss to Temple, including that Zech Byrd has moved to starting tight end and freshman team-leading rusher Demetrius Mauney is listed as the first running back.
Mauney is in line to be the Pirates' fourth starting RB in seven games. Darius Pinnix started the first two weeks before an injury, Hussein Howe started the next two and then left the team and Trace Christian was the starter for the previous two contests despite Mauney finishing as ECU's top rusher in each of those last two outings.
Houston said Monday that Pinnix is still in recovery mode, and his situation remains fluid.
"Darius and I have talked that we want to get him healthy first, and until we get him healthy, there's no need on making any decisions," Houston said when asked if Pinnix could redshirt this year -- playing in up to two more games -- to preserve his status as a junior for next season.
Quarterback Holton Ahlers leads the Pirates with three rushing touchdowns. Mauney has 244 yards on 57 carries, good for a 4.3 yards-per-carry average to match Christian, but Pinnix is the only ECU running back to get in the end zone with two TDs against Gardner-Webb on Sept. 7.
The Pirates' last game at Orlando was played at night, and the 2017 UCF team, which finished undefeated behind a wave of NFL talent, won 63-21. ECU was more competitive in 2018, also at night at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, in a 37-10 defeat when Ahlers made his first-career start as a freshman.
"I wouldn't say there is any preference as far as night or noon game or anything like that, but I do feel like our team is accustomed to it," said Pirate left tackle D'Ante Smith, who is on a streak of 19 straight starts. "It shouldn't be nothing for us to adjust to (this week)."
Contact Ronnie Woodward at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.