East Carolina has had Dec. 4 marked on its calendar for some time. The Pirates will reignite their feud with the Central Florida Knights for the first time since 2012 when both clubs were members of Conference USA.
The Knights, who won that last meeting 2012, will be fighting for a share of the American Athletic Conference Championship. Memphis clinched a share of it with a decisive 41-10 win over Connecticut. To get a piece of the championship, though, UCF has to defeat ECU.
“We don’t need any extra motivation to play these guys,” said offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley about spoiling UCF’s dreams of a fourth conference championship. “This is a heck of a rivalry. It’s our senior night. I could care less about them and we’ll be ready to play.”
ECU and UCF met in 1991 and played a series of four games in the 1990s—all of which ended in Pirate victories. The rivalry between the two intensified when UCF joined C-USA in 2005.
High stakes have become a staple of this rivalry since then. Whether it’s a mid-season game when it’s not quite apparent what’s on the line or a season-finale showdown like Thursday’s, division and conference-title hopes have oftentimes been decided in this matchup.
In 2007, UCF’s win over ECU was enough to win the division. Two years later in 2009, it was ECU defeating UCF that earned the Pirates the divisional title. In both cases, the side that won the division went on to win the C-USA Championship, too.
UCF also beat ECU in 2010 to avoid sharing the division title. Then, two years later in the most recent contest between the two, UCF’s victory was the deciding factor in the two splitting the division title.
Before losing consecutive road conference games to Temple and Cincinnati, this last game of the season could have been a deciding game in ECU’s AAC Championship hopes. There aren’t title hopes on the line for ECU, but the Pirates still have a lot to fight for, too.
“You know, we have a lot on the line, too,” said Shane Carden. “It’ll be our last home game and, for us seniors, our last game in Dowdy. We’ll be playing for a 10-win season—our second 10-win season in a row. There’s a lot for us to play for. I don’t worry too much about what they’re thinking.”
No matter what’s on the line, though, coaches and players alike look forward to the Pirates versus Knights contest. This game will pit one of the AAC’s most efficient offenses in ECU against the conference’s shutdown defense in UCF.
If history is any indicator, this rivalry has evolved into a relatively even and very entertaining feud. This installment shouldn’t be any different.
“It’s fun. I’ve always enjoyed playing them,” said Riley. “They’re well coached. I know, defensively, they always have good players. It’s always been a fun matchup. It’s one you enjoy.”
Riley continued, “It’s going to be classic ECU versus Central Florida. There have been great ones before we got here and there have been great ones since we got here. I’m sure this will be another great one.”