Once again the BYU Cougars will face a team that has never been on their schedule, or they have met in a bowl game. This time it will come in the form of the East Carolina Pirates. This Saturday the teams clash in an early evening game that will allow fans to get out of the hot afternoon sun, yet not break the Sabbath if they grab a drink from the gas station on the way home. Since there is no history between the schools, let's take a look at what they did against common opponents last year.
UConn (vs ECU 31-21 L, vs BYU 35-10 L)
As you can see, both teams handled UConn without much of a struggle. Both teams were on the road but the big difference comes in when the teams played. BYU opened the season against UConn and so both teams were still learning a bit about themselves as well as each other. ECU met them in the 7th game of the season so UConn was able to make adjustments and so this could be part of the difference in score. Either way the teams played well and beat the same team in a similar manner.
UCF (vs ECU 32-30 W, vs BYU 31-24 W/OT)
Again the teams played to a very similar score, with the same result. Both teams lost to a good UCF team in games that were very close. BYU went into overtime after giving up the lead and ECU lost when UCF connected on a 51 yard Hail Mary as time expired. So what does this tell us about the two teams? Absolutely nothing. However, it does show that the teams would have been pretty evenly matched if they had played last year.
The Cougars responded to their critics with a 30-13 win over UConn. It wasn't always pretty, and really shouldn't have been this close, but a win is a win and the team showed heart after a horrendous defeat the week before. Once again the Cougars have excited the fan base and have allowed them to expect more from their team as the season progresses.
Once more the Cougars put up some points, even if it took a while, and had chances to put much more on the board. Overall both the offense and defense played well and took care of the Huskies on both sides of the ball. The defense only gave up 13 points, created two turnovers, and kept the Huskies to a total of 230 yards on offense. The Cougars offense racked up 530 yards and converted more than 50% of their 3rd down conversions. With Algernon Brown back, and gaining 95 yards rushing, the running game ended with 174 yards on the ground. It will be interesting to see Brown and Francis Bernard pick up for the loss of Adam Hine, but the future continues to look bright.
Once again the Cougars had a tough time scoring in the red zone. Although the offense had control of the game, the Cougars left a lot of points to be had. Two dropped passes in the end-zone by Cougar receivers caused drives to stall and points to be lost. With these catches and points, the game would have been over much earlier than the 4th quarter. For the first time this year Trevor Samson missed a field goal, in fact he missed twice. The first miss was from 48 yards and the second was missed from 38 yards out. The wet weather may have played a part in the misses, however, the Cougars will need Samson to hit those in the future.
The match-up of the game could come down to the Cougars front seven versus the Pirates quarterbacks. Regardless of who is playing behind center, the Cougars will have their problems. With Blake Kemp in the game the Cougars will need to get pressure on him before he can find his receivers and do some damage through the air. When James Summers is in the game, the Cougars will need to find a way to stop a dual-threat quarterback before he can hurt the Cougars in more than one way. If the Cougars front seven can neutralize these players, the Cougars could come away with a good win, otherwise they may be playing from behind.
The Keys to Watch
When the Pirates have the ball:
Watch for the Pirates game-plan to change based on their quarterback. The starter for the first five games has been Kemp but the finisher for the last two games has been back-up Summers. Kemp is the traditional pocket quarterback that hasn't recorded any rushing statistics but has some impressive passing numbers. He completes over 70% of his passes and has eight touchdowns to five interceptions. Summers however loves to use his feet. In his time this year he has only attempted 22 passes compared to 31 rushes. He does however have three touchdown passes to go along with his four touchdown runs. Watch for the Pirates to utilize every advantage by playing both quarterbacks. Watch for ECU to establish their running game, opening up the passign game just like the Cougars did with a healthy Taysom Hill.
Watch for the Cougars to focus on stopping the run and making the Pirates one dimensional. When Summers is in, watch for the Cougars to put a spy on the quarterback so he can't use his legs as much as the Pirates would like. Watch for the Cougars pass rush to pressure the Pirates into a couple of mistakes that could determine the game.
When the Cougars have the ball:
Watch for Tanner Mangum to continue to progress with in his knowledge of the offense, and his confidence in the game. Watch for him to make a few of the throws that he missed against the Huskies, and to learn from the mistakes he made against UConn. Watch for the Cougars to increase the rushing load as they look to take some pressure off the young quarterback. With Brown back and Bernard playing well, the Cougars should find success against a defense that gives up almost 200 yards rushing per game.
Watch for the Pirates to disguise their defensive schemes as they try to rattle Mangum into passes that are off target and in reach of the defenders. After watching Mangum throw a couple of interceptions on Saturday, the secondary will be looking for balls that they can pick off and knock down. Watch for the defense to play very physical with the Cougar receivers so that the rest of the defense can plug up the middle and stop the Cougars from rushing the ball.
Although a fairly new tradition, the East Carolina set of flag raising ceremonies are quite unique in college football. The ceremonies have been put in place as the team, the school, and the fans strive to honor the traditions of historic pirates of hosting the flags of the captain.
The first flag is the Jolly Roger. This is in reference to the colors of flag of the captain of the ship. The ECU Jolly Roger is a skull and crossbones with a gold bandanna and a purple and gold pirates captain hat. This flag is hoisted just before kickoff at home games.
The second flag is the No Quarter. This is in reference to the old pirates informing other ships that they would give no quarter and take no enemies. The ECU No Quarter flag uses the same skull and crossbones but on a burgundy/red background. This flag is raised just before the fourth quarter as fans cross their arms in an imitation of the skull and crossbones. The flag is then flown for the remainder of the game. For more on this and other traditions take a look at the East Carolina Pirates webpage.
The Cougars and Pirates will next meet on October 21st, 2017 in Greenville, North Carolina for their second game of the series.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 5:30 pm MDT
Where: Lavell Edwards Stadium-Provo, Utah
Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
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