Michigan’s run to the College Football Playoff championship with a 34-13 win over Washington at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Monday night was further evidence of just how good East Carolina was defensively in 2023.
The performance of coordinator Blake Harrell’s unit could be overlooked as the Pirates were 2-10 overall,
The Wolverines are a measuring stick of just how good the Pirates were on defense.
The previously unbeaten Huskies yielded four more points in the title game than did ECU in a 30-3 loss before a crowd of 109,482 at Michigan in the season opener on Sept. 2.
Time of possession
The Pirate defense generally got less rest than most of the Football Bowl Subdivision as ECU had possession for an average of 28 minutes, 18 seconds last season. That ranked 110th among 133 FBS teams.
Surprisingly, the Pirates managed more time of possession in away games (29:34) than home games (26:47).
ECU averaged 31:23 in TOP during an 8-5 season in 2022.
The Pirates forced the Wolverines to beat them through the air.
Michigan (15-0) rushed for 303 yards in the CFP final on Monday night. Blake Corum, the Offensive Player of the Game, had 21 rushes for 134 yards with two touchdowns.
Corum ran 17 yards for a score in overtime in a 27-20 semifinal win over Alabama in the Rose Bowl. He finished with 83 yards on 19 carries against the Crimson Tide.
Corum had a 2-yard TD rush in the second quarter against the Pirates for a 14-0 lead.
Michigan had 122 yards rushing against ECU, slightly less than the 130 that Alabama allowed.
Corum ran 10 times against the Pirates for 73 yards.
Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy stepped up against ECU to complete 26 of 30 for 280 yards with three scores and no interceptions.
Upon further review
McCarthy appeared to be beyond the line of scrimmage on a 14-yard scoring pass in the first quarter against the Pirates.
The Big Ten crew upheld the play after video review. Although it appeared to be home cooking at the time, it may have been the correct ruling.
A similar situation involving Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. in the playoffs was accompanied with an explanation.
The player who is passing must have his whole body and the ball past the scrimmage line to incur a penalty.
As ECU coach Mike Houston said after the Michigan game, “he must have had a toenail behind the line.”
Washington moves to the Big Ten for the 2024 football season.
The Huskies will play Michigan in Seattle in a rematch of the national final on Oct. 5.
ESPN’s GameDay production may well be there.
The Wolverines have another national headliner on Sept. 7, when they host Texas, the No. 3 seed for the recently completed playoffs.
Houser has new home
East Carolina got former Michigan State quarterback Katin Houser out of the transfer portal for 2024.
Houser also faced Michigan in 2024, as the Spartans hosted the Wolverines on Oct. 21.
Houser completed 12 of 22 for 101 yards with an interception in a 49-0 loss.
The front shapes up as the strength of the ECU defense next season, just as it did going into 2023.
Returning starters D’Anta Johnson, Elijah Morris and Chad Stephens are proven players on the D-line.
Ryheem Craig is coming in from Louisville as an edge rusher, a position which loses local product Jeremy Lewis. Safety Julius Wood also has exhausted his eligibility after leading ECU in tackles in 2023. Linebacker B.J. Davis, third in tackles, also bid farewell on Senior Day.
Missouri transfer Dameon Wilson and rising senior Michael Edwards III will be counted on among the linebacking corps. Edwards was second on the team in tackles last year.
The secondary has sustained portal losses with safety Teagan Wilk heading to Houston and corner Antione Jackson going to Central Florida.
Andrew Wilson-Lamp is in from West Virginia at corner.
There is sufficient talent for Harrell to put together another formidable platoon.