football | ncaaf

East Carolina Pirates vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane Pick & Prediction OCT 30TH 2020

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In their long-belated 2020 home opener, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane will welcome American Athletic Conference counterpart East Carolina on Friday night.

After losing its sole nonconference game to Oklahoma State on Sept. 19, Tulsa (2-1, 2-0 AAC) has posted back-to-back wins in league play. Most recently, the Golden Hurricane cruised to a 42-13 rout of South Florida on Oct. 23, their third road game to open the pandemic-shortened season.

A scheduled home game against Cincinnati on Oct. 17 was postponed until Dec. 5 due to a COVID-19 outbreak among the Bearcats.

The Golden Hurricane own consecutive wins against East Carolina, in 2016 and 2019.

A victory on Friday would match Tulsa's longest-ever streak in the series. The current run ended a six-game East Carolina win streak that spanned both programs' membership in Conference USA and entrance into the AAC, including the Pirates' win over the Golden Hurricane in the 2008 C-USA championship game.

Dating to its C-USA days, Tulsa has staked its identity to high-scoring offenses. Its initial success in 2020, however, is owed more to great defensive play.

The Golden Hurricane are allowing 18.3 points per game, good for No. 15 in the nation. In their only loss, they held typically explosive Oklahoma State to just 16 points.

Tulsa is the only defense to hold Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard below 100 yards this season.

"Very impressive defensive performance there," East Carolina coach Mike Houston said Monday of Tulsa's showing at Oklahoma State. "We've got to do a great job with ball security."

The Pirates (1-3, 1-2) are coming off a 27-23 loss to visiting Navy on Oct. 17. They trailed by two touchdowns entering the fourth quarter but could not complete the comeback.

Houston's expressed emphasis on ball security comes just days after the Pirates fumbled four times against Navy, two of which were lost.

East Carolina has committed nine turnovers through its first four games and ranks tied for 73rd in FBS teams with a minus-2 turnover margin on the campaign.

In contrast, Tulsa ranks among the country's best in turnover margin at plus-3. Linebacker Zaven Collins -- a 2019 All-AAC honoree -- is off to an outstanding start with two interceptions, a forced fumble, 18 solo tackles, four assisted tackles, three sacks and a safety.

Collins made his second pick of the season in the Friday romp at South Florida, and he returned it 38 yards for a touchdown. The Golden Hurricane forced three turnovers and limited the Bulls' offense to 4.4 yards per play, even though Tulsa was without four defensive starters.

"We knew things like this could happen throughout the season," Montgomery said. "We told our guys, 'You've got to prepare yourself each and every week because you never know when that opportunity's going to come, and when you have it, seize it and make the most of it.'"

The abundance of missing starters, a three-week layoff after the marquee matchup with Cincinnati was postponed, and Tulsa being nearly two months into the season before playing its first home game are all part of the challenges amid the pandemic.

East Carolina endured a pause in activities in August before a series of postponements pushed its season opener to Sept. 26.

Houston told reporters days prior to the Navy game that the Pirates were "dealing with some issues" related to COVID-19 testing. Those problems most significantly impacted the offense, with running backs Darius Pinnix Jr. and Demetrius Mauney and starting quarterback Holton Ahlers all out due to protocols.

As a result, freshman quarterback Mason Garcia was thrown into his first career start. He completed 10 of 20 passes for 104 yards.

Ahlers returned to practice this week. He has thrown for 673 yards and six touchdowns on the season with four interceptions.

--Field Level Media

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East Carolina Pirates

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

alignments not yet available

East Carolina Pirates

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

  • Match Start
  • Period 1
  • MIN 3
    • scoring-play
    • Field Goal
    • 35 Yards
    • FG Kicker: Zack Long
  • MIN 11
    • scoring-play
    • Touchdown
    • Pass
    • 16 Yards
    • Pass Receiver: Tyler Snead
    • Conv Kicker: Jake Verity
    • Passer: Holton Ahlers
  • Period 2
  • MIN 1
    • scoring-play
    • Field Goal
    • 46 Yards
    • FG Kicker: Jake Verity
  • MIN 10
    • scoring-play
    • Touchdown
    • Pass
    • 25 Yards
    • Conv Kicker: Jake Verity
    • Passer: Holton Ahlers
    • Pass Receiver: C.J. Johnson
  • Period 3
  • MIN 4
    • scoring-play
    • Field Goal
    • 21 Yards
    • FG Kicker: Zack Long
  • MIN 6
    • scoring-play
    • Touchdown
    • Rush
    • 13 Yards
    • Rusher: T.K. Wilkerson
    • Conv Kicker: Zack Long
  • MIN 9
    • scoring-play
    • Field Goal
    • 22 Yards
    • FG Kicker: Jake Verity
  • MIN 13
    • scoring-play
    • Touchdown
    • Pass
    • 25 Yards
    • Passer: Zach Smith
    • Conv Kicker: Zack Long
    • Pass Receiver: Keylon Stokes
  • Period 4
  • MIN 0
    • scoring-play
    • Touchdown
    • Rush
    • 1 Yards
    • Conv Kicker: Zack Long
    • Rusher: T.K. Wilkerson
  • MIN 4
    • scoring-play
    • Touchdown
    • Pass
    • 4 Yards
    • Conv Kicker: Jake Verity
    • Passer: Holton Ahlers
    • Pass Receiver: Rahjai Harris
  • MIN 9
    • scoring-play
    • Touchdown
    • Pass
    • 39 Yards
    • Conv Kicker: Zack Long
    • Passer: Zach Smith
    • Pass Receiver: Juancarlos Santana
  • MIN 12
    • scoring-play
    • Field Goal
    • 38 Yards
    • FG Kicker: Jake Verity
  • Match End

GAMES

Last 10

W 22% L 78%
2 7
  • @Temple W 28 - 3
  • @Cincinnati L 17 - 55
  • Tulane L 38 - 21
  • @Tulsa L 30 - 34
  • Navy L 27 - 23
  • @South Florida W 44 - 24
  • @Georgia St. L 29 - 49
  • Central Florida L 51 - 28
  • Marshall D 0 - 0
  • Tulsa L 49 - 24
W 83% L 17%
5 1
  • @Houston D 0 - 0
  • Tulane W 24 - 30
  • Southern Methodist W 24 - 28
  • @Navy D 0 - 0
  • East Carolina W 30 - 34
  • @South Florida W 42 - 13
  • Cincinnati D 0 - 0
  • @Central Florida W 34 - 26
  • @Arkansas St. D 0 - 0
  • @Oklahoma State L 7 - 16

Next Games

  • Southern Methodist(11-12-16) L 55 - 31
  • @Houston(11-28-20) D 0 - 0

Last Meetings

  • Pirates @ Golden Hurricane 30-34
  • Golden Hurricane @ Pirates 49-24
  • Pirates @ Golden Hurricane 24-45
  • Golden Hurricane @ Pirates 17-30
  • Pirates @ Golden Hurricane 49-32
  • Golden Hurricane @ Pirates 24-58
  • Golden Hurricane @ Pirates 49-51
  • Pirates @ Golden Hurricane 44-17
  • Pirates @ Golden Hurricane 27-24
  • Golden Hurricane @ Pirates 31-10

Last Injuries

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

  • Zach Smith

    Ribs
    Ques Dec 5 | questionable

    Smith exited the last game with a rib injury, and it is unclear if he will take the field Dec. 5 against Navy.

  • Seth Boomer

    Knee
    Out indefinitely | out

    Boomer is likely to miss an substantial length of time due to a knee injury.

  • Kendarin Ray

    Stinger
    day-to-day | questionable

    Ray was forced from Thursday's game with a stinger, and it is unknown if he will return.

East Carolina Pirates

  • Nishad Strother

    Leg
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Strother was held out of the last game with a leg injury, and it is uncertain if he will play against SMU on Saturday.

  • Traveon Freshwater

    Undisclosed
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Freshwater has been held out the past three games with an unspecified injury, and it is uncertain if he will return Saturday against Southern Methodist.

  • Darius Pinnix Jr.

    Undisclosed
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Pinnix Jr. sat out the last game due to an undefined ailment, and it remains to be seen if he will face Temple on Saturday.

East Carolina Pirates vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane

A pair of fourth-down conversions on the decisive drive set the scene for T.K. Wilkerson's game-winning touchdown, and Tulsa completed a comeback to win its home opener at 34-30 against East Carolina on Friday.

Tulsa (3-1, 3-0 American Athletic Conference) recovered from an offensively anemic first half and a 17-3 halftime deficit to take, surrender, and ultimately retake the lead in the fourth quarter.

Golden Hurricane quarterback Zach Smith threw two interceptions in the first half but regrouped for second-half scoring strikes of 25 yards to Keylon Stokes and 39 yards to JuanCarlos Santana.

Smith's most important completion may have been a 13-yarder on the winning drive to Josh Johnson, whose sliding reception on fourth-and-5 was upheld upon review. The make-or-break play led to an 18-yard Wilkerson run, setting himself up for his second touchdown run of the night on the ensuing, goal-line snap with 29 seconds to go.

Wilkerson finished with 89 rushing yards and two touchdowns in his return to the lineup after he missed the Golden Hurricane's Oct. 24 rout of South Florida.

East Carolina (1-4, 1-3) overwhelmed Tulsa in the first half to hold the Golden Hurricane to 133 yards by halftime. Warren Saba and Shawn Dourseau intercepted Smith passes, and a fourth-down stop gave the Pirates' offense room to operate.

Pirates quarterback Holton Ahlers threw two of his three touchdown passes in the first half, finding Tyler Snead from 16 yards out and C.J. Johnson from 25 yards.

Ahlers -- who finished with 330 yards on 38-of-50 passing with one interception -- threw his third score on a fourth-down play late in the fourth quarter. He found Rahjai Harris on a 4-yard rollout to answer Santana's high-stepping score on the previous drive, which had given Tulsa its first lead of the night.

Harris' TD put the Pirates up 30-27 with 4:24 to play.

Tulsa scored efficiently in the second half, consuming just 1:37, 2:56 and 3:20 on its first three touchdown drives. In contrast, East Carolina's scoring drives included possessions of 4:18, 4:08 and 4:50.

East Carolina managed just six total points in the second half on three drives stifled at the Tulsa 5-, 4- and 11-yard lines.

--Field Level Media