With East Carolina coming off its best win of the season and BYU coming off its worst loss, the teams meet in a nonconference tilt Friday night in Provo, Utah.
After a 3-3 start, East Carolina (5-3) has won two straight — following up a four-overtime thriller against Memphis with Saturday’s impressive 34-14 rout of UCF. The Pirates never trailed, building a 17-0 first-half lead against the Knights, who had entered the game 5-1 and were undefeated in AAC play. When UCF closed the gap to a touchdown early in the second half, East Carolina outscored the visitors 17-3 the rest of the way.
There was little time for the Pirates to celebrate, with a short week turning their attention immediately to BYU (4-4).
“They’re coming off a couple of tough losses, but we do expect them to get a couple guys back this weekend,” Pirates coach Mike Houston said of BYU. “One of the stiffest challenges of the year will be us going on the road and trying to get a win this Friday night.”
ECU junior safety Jireh Wilson was named AAC Defensive Player of the Week after he recorded his second interception, recovered a fumble and posted three tackles (one solo) in the win.
Meanwhile, it’s been six weeks since the Cougars’ fans stormed the field following a 26-20 win over then-No. 9 Baylor. BYU has lost three in a row, with Saturday’s 41-14 loss at Liberty more damaging than previous losses to Oregon, Notre Dame and Arkansas. A fourth consecutive loss would endanger the Cougars’ bowl chances.
After facing the streaking Pirates, BYU faces Boise State, FCS school Utah Tech (a non-major opponent that won’t help in bowl consideration) and goes to Stanford.
Saturday in Lynchburg, Va., Liberty won for the seventh time in eight games and Flames fans did their own field-storming.
“I look forward to seeing who wants to come out of this mess,” Sitake said. “It is an easy filter for me, (to) see who wants to join the fight and who wants to not be a part of it. We will get through it.”
On offense, BYU had just 258 yards on 50 plays, but defense has been the Cougars’ bigger problem. Sitake made changes after the Cougars gave up 644 yards in the 35-52 loss to Arkansas, and he took over defensive play-calling duties from coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki. Still, nothing worked, as Liberty rolled up 547 yards, including 300 on the ground. –Field Level Media