HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - It's not exactly a mirror image East Carolina football Coach Ruffin McNeill sees when he watches film of Marshall, his opponent this Friday in a high-stakes Conference USA matchup. But it's pretty darned close.
As he analyzes the Thundering Herd entering their noon contest on CBS Sports Network - one that will decide the C-USA East Division champion and representative in the next week's conference championship game - he observes a program that has taken a path much like his.
"Both teams are similar in all three categories," McNeill said. "Both teams are explosive in offense and defense and both defenses have done a great job. I think it's a compliment to both teams. And our offenses are both similar. They both spread you and have quarterbacks who are generals and lead our teams. Both groups do great jobs of executing."
In many offensive categories, if the Pirates aren't in first place in Conference USA, they're second behind the Thundering Herd. ECU leads C-USA in passing offense (335.2 yards) and pass efficiency (159.0 rating) and is second to the Herd in total offense (461.6 yards per game) and scoring offense (41.5 points per game).
Senior quarterback Shane Carden guides the Pirates offense and is putting up passing numbers this season - 3,575 yards and 32 touchdowns on 329-of-452 passing - that are closing in on the numbers that Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato put up last year in his conference MVP season. And much like Marshall's offense, Carden has a surplus of weapons at his disposal. It's not just record setting receiver Justin Hardy that's dangerous - he's already set the ECU single-season record with 1,130 receiving yards - but fellow wideouts Isaiah Jones, Lance Ray and Reese Wiggins are dangerous as well.
And running back Vintavious Cooper is less than 100 yards away from recording his second straight 1,000-yard season.
He only needs 98 to break that barrier, and is the team's third-leading receiver on top of that.
"It's awesome," Carden said. "It makes my job a lot easier. There's just kind of a different style of receiver at each position. Everyone knows Hardy and the ability he has. We have great speed outside and we have some shifty guys we can get the ball to in space.
"And everyone talks about us being this great passing offense, and we have a running back that about to be a 1,000-yard running back," he added. "I think that speaks greatly of our offensive line and the things they've done this year."