For those among Pirate Nation who might be asking why East Carolina is going on the road to play Georgia State on Saturday at noon (ESPNU), the short answer is Jeff Compher.
Before ECU negotiated a buyout of Compher as athletic director, a pair of matchups with the Panthers were announced on March 2, 2018. Today’s game was originally scheduled for Sept. 2, 2023.
When current athletic director Jon Gilbert booked a game at Michigan for Sept. 2, 2023, the contest at Georgia State was moved up to Saturday of this season.
The Panthers are scheduled to play in Greenville on Sept. 25, 2027.
So the Pirates are on the road to take on a Sun Belt Conference opponent that missed last week’s contest at Charlotte due to false positives in COVID-19 testing. The Panthers (0-1) lost their season opener at home to Louisiana Lafayette, 34-31, in overtime on Sept. 19. The Ragin’ Cajuns have since improved to 3-0 with a 20-18 win over Georgia Southern last week.
ECU coach Mike Houston is happy his team has another opportunity to play after opening with a 51-28 home loss to Central Florida last week. The Knights (2-0) have moved up to No. 11 in the Associated Press poll this week.
“We have a challenging game this week,” Houston said. “Georgia State is very, very impressive on film. I’ve known (Georgia State coach) Shawn Elliott a long time, going back to when he was an assistant at Appalachian State, and I was an assistant coach at Lenoir-Rhyne. Our paths have crossed numerous times over the years. Knowing him and his personality, on film, I see a team that looks like a team with a coach that’s been there a while and has built the roster. I think they play his style, very, very physical up front on the offensive line. Very, very physical up front on the defensive line and with the linebackers. Very aggressive defensively. Tall, rangy, very athletic quarterback.
“Brad Glenn, the OC was also an Appalachian State guy. He was at Western Carolina when I was at The Citadel, so they have a style of stand-up athletes on offense that Brad likes. Dual-threat quarterback (Cornelious Brown IV) that will give us a lot of problems in the run game and the pass game. (Destin) Coates is a very talented running back, an older kid that runs with some power and has speed. I really thought they worked Louisiana Lafayette pretty good for three and a half quarters. Lafayette broke a couple of big plays in the fourth to send it to overtime and was able to win it in overtime. I promise you, that’s one they kick themselves about letting get away. Talented opponent, on the road, it’s going to be a great challenge. It’s going to be a great test for our squad.”
Coates ran 34 times for 150 yards in Georgia State’s opener.
The Pirate defense will probably see a lot of No. 17, a junior from Tallahassee, FL, today.
The individual record for rushes by an ECU opponent is 43 by Paul Palmer of visiting Temple on Oct. 11, 1986. The Owls subsequently forfeited a 45-28 win for using an ineligible player but Palmer’s effort is still recognized in the Pirate record book.
New kids on the block
The Panthers are a relatively new arrival in college football, playing their first game in 2010. Former Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky coach Bill Curry guided Georgia State at the program’s outset. John Thompson, who coached the Pirates in 2003 and 2004, was the first defensive coordinator.
The Panthers have made three bowl trips starting in 2015.
ECU hasn’t been to a bowl since 2014. Compher dismissed Ruffin McNeill as coach after the 2015 season. McNeill was 42-34 at his alma mater. His successors have a combined record of 13-36.
Georgia State plays its home games at Center Parc Stadium. The facility was originally built for the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta (Centennial Olympic Stadium) and was later the home of the Atlanta Braves (Turner Field).
The playing surface is synthetic FieldTurf.
The Panthers played in the Georgia Dome from 2010 to 2016. That structure was demolished in 2017.
Upset of Volunteers
Georgia State gained national notoriety with a 38-30 win at Tennessee to start its 2019 season.
Elliott was an assistant at Appalachian State when the Mountaineers stunned host Michigan, 34-32, in 2007.
“Two totally different scenarios,” Elliott said after the win in Knoxville. “We had 63 scholarships [then], going to play the Michigan Wolverines with 85. We walked in here with 83 scholarships. They possibly had 85, I’m not sure. We were on an even scale, so to speak.”
The Panthers finished 2019 with a 7-6 mark that included a 38-17 loss to Wyoming in the Arizona Bowl.
Georgia State was a 25-point underdog last year at Tennessee
Inside the line
Georgia State is rated as a 2.5-point favorite against ECU, which means the game is virtually even since a home team generally is given a 3-point advantage.
The traditional differential for playing at home may not be the same in 2020 because of restrictions on fan attendance.
UCF was favored by 27.5 points last week but did not cover as Holton Ahlers hit Tyler Snead for a 7-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left.
The Knights won comfortably despite 19 penalties for 139 yards. UCF drew seven flags for false starts, including four in a row to start its first possession.
The illegal procedure infractions were inexplicable considering there was no crowd noise to interfere with the snap count.
The 19 penalties by an opponent is an ECU record. Southern Miss had 15 against the Pirates on Oct. 9, 2010 in a 44-43 ECU win on the road.
Ground game produces
Among the encouraging aspects of the UCF game was the Pirates’ ground game, which produced 244 yards. Freshmen backs Rahjai Harris and Keaton Mitchell, who combined for 111 yards on 20 carries, are one reason the future looks bright for ECU.
“Well I think anybody that watched the game can see Rahjai Harris and Keaton Mitchell belong,” Houston said. “Everybody understands why we were so excited about them. I hate that Rahjai had the long touchdown run called back for the penalty because your first college touchdown, you always remember those moments. I think that both of them are going to be in the mix this week.”
Mitchell is from McDonough, GA, and will be making something of a homecoming.
junior Darius Pinnix Jr. had two touchdowns against the Knights. Pinnix’s father passed away last weekend. Pinnix and Arkansas transfer Chase Hayden are listed as potential starters on the depth chart this week.