GREENVILLE, N.C. — They may not know his name, but the East Carolina football players know how dangerous Temple running back Ryquell Armstead is.

And one of the keys in Saturday's American Athletic Conference game at Lincoln Financial Field is how well East Carolina does defending Armstead and the Owls' running game.

Both teams, if they have bowl designs, certainly could use this game. Temple is 2-3 (1-0 in the AAC) while ECU (2-2, 0-1) is a vastly improved fom last year's 3-9 squad, which lost at home to Temple, 34-10.

Armstead has rushed for 100 yards in four consecutive games. He is coming off his best performance of the season, rushing for 171 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries in a 45-35 loss at Boston College

"That No. 7 is a really good back," said ECU standout defensive end Nate Harvey after practice earlier this week.

No. 7 is of course Armstead. He wears a single-digit number, which is a badge of honor, awarded to players who show toughness and dedication to the program.

Armstead has done that for sure, playing on special teams and being used as a situational pass rusher on defense.

Yet his value to Temple is as a running back and what this is going to do is pit strength against strength.

ECU is first in the AAC and ninth nationally in rushing defense, allowing 94.8 yards per game.  Armstead, himself, is averaging 107 rushing yards per game.

When asked what was one of his biggest concerns about Temple, ECU coach Scottie Montgomery said, "Their back."

Of course, he was referring to Armstead.

It's not just the run defense that is vastly improved, however, it's the entire unit. Last year, the Pirates allowed 45 points per game. This season, they are allowing 25 points per game.

"Collectively, it's impressive how their defense is running to the ball," Temple coach Geoff Collins said about ECU earlier this week during the AAC media call.

Leading the way is Harvey, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound defensive end.

A year ago, he totaled just six tackles in 12 games. This season, he already has 11 tackles for loss, including six sacks.

Harvey is not a man of many words. When asked about his success, he was succinct.

"Hard work and being coachable," he said.

The reason Temple needs the running game is to shorten the clock. ECU is also improved on offense, averaging 28.5 points after averaging 24.5 last year.

The real improvement, though, is on defense, especially against the run.

Cornerback Corey Seargent, who has ECU's only interception, is impressed but not intimidated by Temple's ground game.

"They are a big, fast physical team," Seargent said of Temple. "We have shut down some good running teams and we are playing with a lot of confidence."

After a first-game 28-23 loss to North Carolina A&T, ECU had a stunning 41-19 win over North Carolina. Then the Pirates, after having a game with Virginia Tech canceled due to Hurricane Florence, lost at South Florida, 20-13, in a game that was tied entering the fourth quarter.

Last week, ECU beat Old Dominion, 37-35. That's an ODU team that upset Virginia Tech a week earlier.

There are many reasons for the improvement in coach Montgomery's third season, but the biggest is stopping the run, which is why how the Pirates will handle No. 7 will go a long way toward whether or not they depart Philadelphia with a W.