It’s been eight short months since the Florida Gators and East Carolina Pirates met on the gridiron. That game came on a rainy, cold day in Birmingham, Alabama and the Gators were able to escape with a 28-20 victory. Florida’s head coach, Jim McElwain, was in attendance for that one, but only as a bystander. When the Pirates travel to the Swamp on Saturday, he’ll be right in the middle of the action.
ECU put up over 500 yards of offense against Florida’s vaunted defense in that Birmingham Bowl match up, but this is a new Pirate team coming to Gainesville. Gone is quarterback Shane Carden, who threw for over 400 yards against the Gator secondary. Gone is receiver Justin Hardy, the FBS all-time leader in receptions. Gone is offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley who now leads the Oklahoma Sooner attack. One constant, however, is the up-tempo Air Raid attack that the Gators will have to combat.
“We work it as well as we can,” McElwain said regarding ECU’s tempo. “I think our defensive staff has a couple, kind of, neat things they do during practice to help simulate that and it seems to be working pretty well.”
After racking up over 600 yards of offense against New Mexico State, the Gator offense will look to continue its early season success against a ECU defensive unit that gave up over 400 yards of offense to Towson last Saturday. Unlike last Wednesday, McElwain did not name a starting quarterback yet, but did mention that both Treon Harris and Will Grier will play against the Pirates.
“We’re going to basically do the same thing,” McElwain explained. “Which guy is going to trot out there first, we’re going to visit that after tonight’s(Wednesday’s) practice.”
The Gators will have a few more hands on deck this weekend as defensive lineman Alex McCalister and safety Marcus Maye are back after serving one game suspensions. Wide receiver Latroy Pittman joined both McCalister and Maye for that suspension, but he still has some work to do before he will be back on the field.
“He’s got a little time to go and, there again, it’s about earning your way back and doing what’s right every single day,” McElwain said.
Florida and East Carolina will kick things off on Saturday night at 7:00 in the Swamp.