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Eash Carolina set for big challenge against Gamecocks

GREENVILLE East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill is prone to saying all wins are big, but a victory this week would be huge.

After blowing by N.C. Central 52-7 in their season opener on Saturday, the Pirates (1-0) will head to Columbia, S.C., to take on a No. 9 South Carolina (0-1) team that is looking to move past a Thursday night 52-28 loss to No. 21 Texas A&M.

Over the weekend, the Pirates, were 40-point favorites to top the Eagles. Come Saturday, ECU will be on the opposite end of the spectrum as it faces off against the SEC Gamecocks (7 p.m., ESPNU).

On Monday, McNeill said no matter what direction it comes from, pressure is pressure and the team has to be able to perform.

“All of them are big,” McNeill said. “That game last week against N.C. Central, that was a big one. Try losing that one.”

Though the stakes are high, the Pirates will approach this week the same as any other: one step at a time.

“Right now I’m not worried about Tuesday, I’m worried about Monday,” McNeill said. “It’s not coaching cliché for us. Maybe for some other people, but not us. That’s just how the environment in here works best.”

East Carolina is 5-12 in the South Carolina series. The two teams have played twice in the past three years, with the Gamecocks winning both. The last time the Pirates topped USC was 1999, a 21-3 victory in Columbia.

ECU’s last win against a ranked opponent came on Dec. 5, 2009, when it beat No. 18 Houston in the Conference USA championship.

USC’s Davis doubtful for Saturday?: During a teleconference on Sunday, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said star running back Mike Davis was doubtful for Saturday’s game with a bruised rib.

“I think our trainer said he’s not practicing the next few days, so I guess later in the week we’ll see how his condition is,” Spurrier said.

On Monday, Davis was listed atop the Gamecocks depth chart. The 5-foot-9, 223-pound junior rushed for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns last season to earn second-team all-SEC honors.

Behind Davis on the depth chart is juniors Brandon Wilds (6-2, 230) and Shon Carson (5-8, 201).

Injury report: The Pirates dropped OLB Jeton Beavers (shoulder), ILB Desi Brown (leg), TE Darren Dowdell and OL Christian Matau from the injury list this week. Cornerback DaShawn Benton (knee) is listed as doubtful, while WR Daquan Barnes (back), OLB Kirk Donaldson (knee) and NT Terry Williams (knee) will not play Saturday.

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