No. 21 ECU visits Temple with eye on 7-1 record
PHILADELPHIA (AP) No. 21 East Carolina doesn’t care about where it’s ranked – just that the wins keep coming.
One more victory and Pirates will earn another slice of history.
East Carolina can match the best eight-game start in school history on Saturday by beating Temple.
The Pirates (6-1, 3-0 American Athletic Conference) have opened with a 7-1 record 10 times in their history, but they haven’t done it since the 1999 team did it behind future NFL quarterback David Garrard.
They slipped three spots after last week’s 10-point home win over Connecticut – a game that was 21-all in the fourth quarter – and debuted in the college football playoff rankings at No. 23.
”A couple weeks ago, we didn’t even play and moved up two spots,” coach Ruffin McNeill said. ”That’s why I don’t focus on them. I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but I am informed.
”We don’t coach for rankings. I’ve never coached that way and I’m not going to start now,” McNeill said. ”What we coach is playing our best on every play and embracing our roles to make the team better. That’s what we can control.”
Still, the Pirates – as the only ranked team from outside the five power conferences and Notre Dame – have the edge for the spot in the big New Year’s bowls reserved for a Group of Five team.
They bring a five-game winning streak into their visit to Temple (4-3, 2-2).
A loss to the Owls, and it all goes away.
Temple has lost two straight on the road, but hasn’t been beaten away from home since a loss to Navy in Week 2.
”It’s one thing to win or lose, but we haven’t played the way we want to play,” coach Matt Rhule said. ”I think it’s really a pivotal moment for us. You don’t want to say a young football team, but a football team that’s trying to figure out how to win or lose all the time.”
Some things to know about East Carolina’s first visit to Temple since 1994:
CARDEN PARTY?: East Carolina QB Shane Carden might be in for a test from a Temple defense that’s one of the American’s best against the pass. Carden is coming off his seventh career 400-yard passing performance, a 445-yard effort against UConn. The Owls allow an average of 194 yards through the air and haven’t allowed an opponent to throw for more than 336 yards.
OWLS VS. TOP 25: Temple is aiming for just the third victory over a nationally ranked opponent in program history and its first at home. The Owls’ most recent Top 25 win came in 1998 at then-No. 14 Virginia Tech.
PIRATES’ VOYAGE: In order to stay in line for one of those New Year’s bowls, East Carolina has to keep winning on the road. The Pirates don’t play in Greenville, North Carolina, again until a Nov. 22 visit from Tulane. After the Temple game, they visit Cincinnati on Nov. 13 and also head to Tulsa on Nov. 28.
NO QUARTER: One key to East Carolina’s rise: The Pirates have not been scored upon in the fourth quarter of any American Athletic Conference game. They’ve outscored SMU, South Florida and UConn by a combined 34-0 in the final 15 minutes.
COACHING TIES: McNeill and Ruhle have never coached against each other, but they do share connections to western North Carolina. McNeill spent seven years on Appalachian State’s staff while Rhule was an assistant from 2002-05 at Western Carolina – the Mountaineers’ closest Southern Conference rival before their move to the Bowl Subdivision. East Carolina AD Jeff Compher held that job at Western Carolina for the first three years of Rhule’s time on the Catamounts’ staff.