GREENVILLE, N.C. – Contests against seven bowl qualifiers, including a home matchup against Texas Bowl winner Navy and road games at Atlantic Coast Conference members Virginia Tech and North Carolina, complement a mid-October date versus North Carolina State at newly-expanded Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium according to a release of East Carolina's complete 2010 football schedule by Conference USA officials Tuesday.
The two-time C-USA champion Pirates will begin defense of their title in the season opener by hosting Tulsa at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 5, in front of a national television audience on ESPN. After meeting the Golden Hurricane, which will also mark the first time since 2003 that ECU will start the year with league competition, head coach Ruffin McNeill's first squad will face a short week in closing a brief two-game homestand against Memphis six days later Sept. 11.
East Carolina will hit the road to battle the first two of three ACC opponents when it faces Virginia Tech Sept. 18 and North Carolina Oct. 2 before welcoming N.C. State to 50,000-seat Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Oct. 16.
The Pirates and Hokies, who are currently in the midst of a recent nine-game series agreement which continued with East Carolina's 27-22 win at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium in 2008 and a 16-3 Virginia Tech triumph in Greenville last fall, will play each other in Blacksburg for the ninth overall time and first since a 17-7 Hokie victory in 2007. Virginia Tech, which finished its season with a 10-3 record after a 37-14 triumph over Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last December, stood No. 10 in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Following an off week, ECU will visit Kenan Stadium for the 11th time in series history and second in as many seasons when it meets the Tar Heels. North Carolina, which turned in an 8-5 mark a year ago and made its second-straight trip to the Meineke Car Care Bowl, has split its last two contests against the Pirates - falling 34-31 in Greenville in 2007 before earning a 31-17 victory last fall.
The Wolfpack's trip to Greenville will extend a 26-game series between the two programs that dates back to 1970. Although the Pirates have captured five of the last nine meetings since 1987, N.C. State has won the last two matchups and three of the last four - including a 34-20 victory during its last visit to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in 2007.
East Carolina will close out its non-conference slate Nov. 6 against a Navy program which posted a 10-4 record in 2009 and a 35-13 win over Missouri in the Texas Bowl. The Midshipmens’ triple-option offensive attack, which propelled them to a 28-23 victory in the series opener at Annapolis in 2006, stood fourth nationally a year ago with a 280.5 rushing yards per game average.
In addition to playing three members of automatic qualifying Bowl Champion Series conferences who earned bowl invitations a year ago, the Pirates will face four of last season's five Conference USA bowl qualifiers. Meetings against Southern Miss (R+L Carriers New Orleans), Marshall (Little Caesars Pizza Bowl), UCF (Beef O'Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl) and SMU (Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl) will complete ECU's schedule against post-season participants.
"I've always been a person who has looked forward to challenges," McNeill said. "Our scheduling philosophy is one I'm in agreement with and fully support. We're in this to continue to win championships, and the only way to compete for those and keep aspiring to reach new levels is to play the caliber of non-conference opponents we do. I think everyone will be excited from a local and regional standpoint to have the opportunity to line up against three ACC teams and have a program with a storied history and tradition like Navy visit Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
"I have a high opinion of the coaches and talent level in Conference USA, so I know we'll have our hands full and won't have a lot of time to get ready," McNeill added.
Sandwiched between the North Carolina and N.C. State tilts, East Carolina will travel to Hattiesburg Oct. 9 to face Southern Miss for its first C-USA road contest of the campaign. Following the Wolfpack's visit, the Pirates will close out a five-game October schedule with a Homecoming date against Marshall on the 23rd and a road appearance at UCF on the 30th.
After tangling with Navy to open the month of November, ECU will complete its East Division slate by playing at UAB Nov. 13. The Pirates will make their first trip to Rice since 2006 the following weekend before hosting a SMU program that handed East Carolina its only league loss a year ago in the season finale Nov. 27.
While ECU will close the campaign by playing four of the last seven games at home, the Pirates will see Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium only twice in their first five contests before meeting N.C. State. In addition, matchups against the Wolfpack and Thundering Herd also represent East Carolina's only two October battles.
2010 EAST CAROLINA FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Sept. 5 - *TULSA (ESPN/Sun.)
Sept. 11 - *MEMPHIS
Sept. 18 - at Virginia Tech
Oct. 2 - at North Carolina
Oct. 9 - *at Southern Miss
Oct. 16 - N.C. STATE
Oct. 23 - *MARSHALL
Oct. 30 - *at UCF
Nov. 6 - NAVY
Nov. 13 - *at UAB
Nov. 20 - *at Rice
Nov. 27 - *SMU
Dec. 4 - C-USA Championship Game (ESPN)
Home games in ALL CAPS; *Conference USA game