Trying to Rebound
East Carolina's dreams of crashing the BCS party are likely over.
After falling eight spots to No. 23 in this week's poll, the Pirates now must focus on winning their league.
East Carolina looks to remain unbeaten in Conference USA and recover from being upset by an in-state rival when it hosts Houston on Saturday.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made East Carolina –10.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 93% of bets for this game have been placed on East Carolina –10.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Stunning upsets of then-No. 17 Virginia Tech and then-No. 8 West Virginia to open the season vaulted East Carolina into the rankings for the first time since 1999, and spurred hopes for the Pirates to become the first BCS bowl representative from Conference USA.
Their prospects of doing that have since cooled. After surviving to beat Tulane 28-24 in its league opener Sept. 13, East Carolina (3-1, 1-0) fell 30-24 in overtime to North Carolina State last Saturday on Andre Brown's 10-yard touchdown run.
"(The attention) was something that we weren't used to the last couple of years,'' said Pirates safety Van Eskridge, who returned an interception 23 yards for a score in the loss. "But I wouldn't call it a distraction. The coaches did a great job of helping us keep things in their perspective and helping us realize that what we did up until this point was, really, nothing.
"We won three games. We didn't have a champion tag behind our name.''
With any hopes of a national championship dashed, East Carolina will focus on the more realistic goal of winning its first Conference USA title.
"I don't think winning any one game is the important aspect this early in the season," coach Skip Holtz said. "I think how you react to the win or the loss is much more important than the game itself. We lost a football game, we can't change that and can't go back and have a do-over."
Playing its first game since losing starting linebacker Quentin Cotton to a season-ending knee injury, East Carolina's defense struggled to stop the Wolfpack, giving up season highs in points and yards (384) while allowing N.C. State to hold the ball for more than 33 minutes.
On offense, Patrick Pinkney completed 19 of 32 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown, but was also intercepted once and lost a fumble on the third play of overtime, setting the stage for the upset.
For the season, Pinkney's numbers remain excellent. The senior has completed 71.3 percent of his passes for 917 yards, five TDs and two interceptions.
"We can just continue to go through the motions and continue to let the little things slide ... and possibly get to another bowl game,'' Holtz said, "or we can make up our minds that we didn't like the way we played and watch the film and correct our mistakes.''
East Carolina's defense will need to play better Saturday, when it faces a Houston offense that ranks eighth in the nation with 526.3 yards per game. The Cougars (1-3, 0-0) rolled up 473 yards of offense last week as they tried to rally from a three-touchdown deficit, but their comeback came up short in a 28-25 loss at Colorado State.
Sophomore Case Keenum went 37-for-54 for 380 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. The last of those picks came in the end zone, squelching the comeback attempt.
Keenum's 16 touchdown passes lead the nation, and he has already thrown for 1,521 yards in 2008. Seven of the TDs have been to senior tight end Mark Hafner, who has 30 receptions for 319 yards.
East Carolina has taken five of the eight previous meetings between these schools, winning the most recent one 37-35 at Houston on Sept. 29. The road team has won six of the eight matchups.
BETTING TRENDS FOR THIS GAME
E CAROLINA is 5-3 against the spread versus HOUSTON since 1992
E CAROLINA is 5-3 straight up against HOUSTON since 1992
2 of 3 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
E CAROLINA is 1-0 against the spread versus HOUSTON over the last 3 seasons
E CAROLINA is 1-0 straight up against HOUSTON over the last 3 seasons
1 of 1 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
HOUSTON is 2-1 against the spread versus E CAROLINA since 1992
HOUSTON is 2-1 straight up against E CAROLINA since 1992
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
KEY INJURIES FOR THIS GAME
[RB] Dominique Lindsay is out for the season. - Knee - 08/17/08
[RB] DaRonte McNeil has transferred. - None - 08/26/08
[WR] TJ Lee injured last game, doubtful. - Foot - 09/16/08
[WR] DeMorio Waymon has transferred. - None - 08/26/08
[OL] Stanley Bryant out indefinitely. - Leg - 09/15/08
[DT] Khalif Mitchell injured last game, "?". - Toe - 09/16/08
[DT] Brandon Setzer expected to miss the entire season - Knee - 08/14/08
[LB] Quentin Cotton injured last game, expected to miss the rest of the season
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