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Against South Florida, ECU to focus on running with the Bulls

When South Florida squares off with American Athletic Conference foe East Carolina on Thursday, the Bulls will be cruising on a wave of enthusiasm they have not felt recently: The joy from a significant win.

USF (2-5, 1-2) earned its first triumph over an FBS school in 728 days Saturday at home when it mauled Temple 34-14 by rushing for a school-record 421 yards.

That single-game rushing high featured banner showings from a backfield of Jaren Mangham, Kelley Joiner and Brian Battie, after starting quarterback Timmy McClain was injured late in the first half.

Mangham rushed 26 times for 152 yards and two scores, Joiner 14 times for 126 yards and a touchdown and Battie 12 times for 77 yards.

The Bulls toted it 73 times at a 5.8 yards-per-carry clip. They held possession for 44:35 — also a team record.

“This would have been a nice win at any point in the season,” said second-year coach Jeff Scott, whose previous two victories were against The Citadel and Florida A&M of the FCS. “But coming off that game last week, that was the toughest week I had in a long, long time in my career.”

In that one against Tulsa, the Bulls squandered an 11-point fourth-quarter lead and lost 32-31 on a last-minute TD.

Meanwhile, the Pirates (3-4, 1-2) rallied for two late scores in regulation but eventually dropped a 31-24 decision in overtime to Houston.

The weather-interrupted contest at Houston was set to begin at 3 p.m. local time and finished close to midnight after two delays.

ECU’s Holton Ahlers — fourth in the AAC with 1,763 passing yards — was 23-of-37 for 278 yards and two TDs.

The Pirates outgained the Cougars 360-256 and held them scoreless in the second half.

“I think it continues to show the growth of the program,” said ECU coach Mike Houston of his defense. “I don’t know what we were, 110th or 112th or something like that when I got here. They improve every single week. … I think anybody can see the growth. It’s just frustrating to not get the wins.”

At 49th nationally, USF’s rushing attack grinds out 183.1 yards per game, while the Pirates’ run defense surrenders 143.7 yards and ranks 57th.

The Pirates have won just two of the 11 meetings between the schools but were victorious 44-24 last season in Tampa.

–Field Level Media

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