Game Preview: WVU Opens Home Slate vs. ECU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Game Preview: WVU Opens Home Slate vs. ECU

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Will Grier prepares for his WVU debut against Virginia Tech on Sept. 3. (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle) Will Grier prepares for his WVU debut against Virginia Tech on Sept. 3. (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle)

By Ryan Decker

It’s a short turnaround for the West Virginia Mountaineers (0-1) this week.

Less than six full days after opening the season at FedEx Field, WVU begins the home portion of its schedule Saturday at noon against East Carolina University (0-1) out of the American Athletic Conference.

The short week is a challenge that the Mountaineers sound to be excited for.

“We’re excited about our five-and-a-half day turnaround from the end of Sunday night until noon on Saturday,“ WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday. “It’s going to happen quickly, obviously, and we’re prepared for that.”

Both WVU and ECU opened up the 2017 season with losses, though West Virginia’s opening game was much more tightly contested than East Carolina’s.

The Mountaineer offense picked up 592 yards against a formidable Virginia Tech defense, including 371 through the air and 59 on the ground from quarterback Will Grier in a performance that earned him Big 12 Newcomer of the Week status.

East Carolina was defeated 34-14 on Saturday by reigning FCS champion James Madison, giving up over 400 rushing yards to the Dukes.

ECU made a quarterback change during the contest, placing Thomas Sirk under center for the second half, which improved the offense’s production.

Holgorsen commented that despite its loss to JMU, the team can’t look past East Carolina based on its reputation.

“They’ve been known to take out Power Five schools left and right as we well know,” Holgorsen said. “They’ve done it consistently throughout their program.”

The Pirates have defeated seven Power-5 Conference opponents since 2010 and beat Virginia Tech and West Virginia in back-to-back weeks to start the season in 2008.

2009 was the last season the two teams met.

West Virginia picked up a 35-20 win behind four touchdown passes from Jarrett Brown. The Pirates scored the game’s first ten points and led after the first quarter before being outscored 28-10 over the next three periods.

WVU has picked up the victory in eighteen of the twenty-one meetings.

The Pirates became much more of a passing team in the second half last weekend with Sirk controlling the offense. He attempted 35 passes in the second half alone, totaling 210 yards in the air.

Sirk tried spreading the wealth, targeting eight different receivers. Davon Grayson and Deondre Farrier led the team in receptions with seven.

ECU returned three of its top five receivers from a year ago.

Pirates defensive players gave up almost 230 rushing yards per game a year ago, and that number was not improved upon in East Carolina’s season opener.

Even with the defense not showing strong ability to stop the run, offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said the Mountaineers will try to stay balanced.

“We are going to attempt to run the ball and then Will (Grier) is going to take what they give him on the perimeter. We are going into this game with the mindset of trying to compete and do what we do best,” he said.

Saturday’s game between the Mountaineers and Pirates will be televised on FS2 starting at noon.  Pregame coverage can be found on 91.7 FM in the Morgantown area or on u92.wvu.edu starting at 9 a.m. 

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