This time of year in a college football season, the bruising impacts and stress placed on the human body from playing the sport begins to crop up on rosters throughout the country. In a normal season, ECU football would have five games remaining on its schedule, having just turned the halfway point of the campaign.

COVID-19 has dictated a condensed schedule, however, and thrown an extra layer on top of the normal bumps and bruises programs deal with. ECU’s opponent on Saturday, the Temple Owls, traveled to UCF last weekend with as little as 45 scholarship players available due to COVID-19 issues that have plagued the team recently. With their starting quarterback, Anthony Russo, sidelined because of the virus and two backups injured, Owls head coach Rod Carey plans to start his only remaining healthy scholarship quarterback this weekend.

“We’re all battling stuff this year,” ECU head coach Mike Houston said. “We’re all battling COVID issues and we’re all battling injuries and things of that nature at this point in the season. I know that a few games back against Tulane you could tell that they had a depleted group. The last couple of games out, though, they’ve had their guys”

Temple dropped its game against Tulane 38-3 and will enter Saturday on a four-game skid having allowed at least 38 points to each of its last four opponents.

While the Owls are currently attempting to stave off their COVID-19 issues, the Pirates went through a similar situation earlier in the year. Against Navy, ECU was forced to start true freshman quarterback Mason Garcia after junior Holton Ahlers entered quarantine during game week. Four other Pirates also missed that game.

On Tuesday, ECU released its depth chart for Saturday’s contest. It was noticeably void of left tackle Nishad Strother who has been filling in for injured starter D’Ante Smith. Transfer Justin Chase is slated to make the start at left tackle later this week. ECU will also be without starting safety Warren Saba after he left last Friday’s game against Cincinnati with an injury.

Because of that, sophomore transfer Shawn Dourseau and redshirt freshman Juan Powell are listed as the Pirates’ starting safeties for Saturday.

“We have not had our full roster for a single game this year, we’ve had multiple players out every single week,” Houston said. “That’s part of 2020. I know he’s (Carey) frustrated, I’m frustrated, we’re all frustrated, but at least we’re getting to play. We’re intent on playing the game Saturday in Philadelphia.

While COVID-19 has limited Temple’s personnel over the last several weeks, Houston said he saw plenty of their play-makers back on the film against UCF. That includes a stout defensive line that is chalked full of experienced players as well as an offensive line that limits pressures on its quarterbacks with the best of them.

Still, Temple’s top-three players in total offense (rush and pass yards) will not be on the field Saturday when the Pirates visit town.

“I am sure he (Carey) is more sensitive of it than I am because he’s thinking about depth guys, special teams guys,” Houston said. “I just look up and I see those players that he has at the skill positions on offense, I look up and see the linemen that he has out there, I see that defense, I see those running backs and how they play. It’s a very talented group that we’re watching on film from last week’s game and from the week before.”

Good news on the injury front for the Pirates include Jsi Hatfield’s name being listed on the depth chart at inside receiver this week. Jeremy Lewis is also listed at tight end, while Houston has eluded to the return of running back Darius Pinnix Jr. as early as this weekend.

The Pirates and Owls are scheduled to kick-off at noon on Saturday from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.

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