It was supposed to be a golden opportunity. A chance to show the “powers that be” of college football what East Carolina was all about when the Pirates hosted a struggling Connecticut team Thursday night on ESPNU.
As it turned out, they were not too impressed. Despite that ECU (6-1, 3-0 AAC) held off the Huskies (1-6, 0-4 AAC), 31-21, the Pirates dropped from No. 18 to No. 21 in the latest Associated Press poll.
Speaking at his weekly press conference, East Carolina fifth-year coach Ruffin McNeill dismissed the hype surrounding his team’s ranking and said the only numbers he cares about are the ones that show up in the win column.
“We don’t worry about rankings. A couple of weeks ago we didn’t even play and we moved up,” McNeill said, referring to when his team climbed from No. 23 to No. 22 during a Week 5 bye. “I don’t focus on that. We don’t coach for rankings. I’ve never coached that way and I’m not going start now.
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“… A few weeks ago I talked about controlables and uncontrolables. We can’t control how people vote. We won a game and we went down. We didn’t play and went up.”
The Pirates will look to pull that ranking up this week when they travel north to take on Temple in their first meeting since 1995. East Carolina has won five straight; the Owls (4-3, 2-2 AAC) have dropped their past two.
Youth movement: With only eight seniors, Temple fields the youngest team in the FBS, but McNeill said that its youth is not an issue.
“(Temple second-year coach) Matt (Rhule) has them playing well,” McNeill said. “… He understands the game from the ground up. He understands how to build a program from the ground up because of where he began (his career).”
Those youngsters opened up the season with a 37-7 victory over the SEC’s Vanderbilt and won four of their first five games before losing to Houston and Central Florida, respectively.
Carden honored (again): After completing 38 of his 64 pass attempts for a season-high 445 yards and two touchdowns, ECU senior quarterback Shane Carden was named the American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the third time this season.
The 400-yard game was Carden’s fourth this season, which ranks second nationally. Carden ranks third in the nation in passing yards per game (375.8), fourth in total offense (2,679) and fourth (28.9) in completions per game.
Injury report: Defensive end Demage Bailey (knee) will remain out for this week’s game against Temple and will be joined on the sideline by wide receiver Trevon Brown, who hurt his knee against UConn.