Pirates close regular season against Marshall

With some help, East Carolina can still qualify to play for the Conference USA championship when they honor their seniors and close its regular season against the Marshall Thundering Herd Friday.

The Pirates (6-1 C-USA, 7-4 overall)need to find a way to contain Marshall's Rakeem Cato, who enters the game as the nation's leader in passing yards and attempts, if they plan on ending their regular season on a high note.

The Thundering Herd (4-3 C-USA, 5-6 overall) are head-manned by Doc Holidday, who was a member of the Florida staff that won a national title in 2006 and N.C. State from 2000-2004.

ECU holds a 9-4 all-time series between the schools, but the one that is still fresh on the minds of Pirate fans was the game played in Huntington last year. It was a back and forth battle and took extra time to decide, with Marshall eventually prevailing 34-27 to disqualify ECU from bowl contention. Justin Jones had three touchdowns in that game, but was upstaged by Cato, who was 23-29 passing for 341 yards and two touchdowns.

The shoe is now on the other foot in 2012 and ECU now has the opportunity to knock off Marshall and spoil their hopes for becoming bowl-eligible. The Pirates will honor 17 seniors before the game, including wide receiver Andrew Bodenheimer, Defensive lineman Michael Brooks, running back Reggie Bullock, cornerbacks Jacobi Jenkins and Leonard Paulk, and offensive-lineman Josh Clark.

ECU comes into Friday's game rather healthy with center Josh Clark (Out, concussion), linebacker Montese Overton (Out, left knee), and strong safety Chip Thompson (Questionable, concussion) being the lone exceptions.

If the Pirates' defense can find a way to get pressure on Cato and not give up the BIG play over the top, they should be in good shape when it's all said and done. Also, the turnover battle will play a important role. Last week, ECU turned over the ball twice and allowed an inferior Tulane team to keep it close.

I expect this one to be a close one too, with ECU exercising some revenge on Marshall, 38-28.

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