Both the East Carolina Pirates and the West Virginia Mountaineers will enter their Week 2 matchup coming off of a loss. The Pirates were trounced by defending FCS champion James Madison 34-14 at home. West Virginia lost to bitter rival Virginia Tech 31-24 at FedEx Stadium Sunday night.
Now, the Pirates and Mountaineers will try to put their losses behind him and get their first win of the season. West Virginia holds an 18-3 series advantage over East Carolina. In their last meeting back in 2009, the Mountaineers defeated the Pirates 35-20 in Morgantown.
East Carolina at West Virginia
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 9 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: West Virginia -24
Three Things to Watch
1. West Virginia’s defense
In their game against the Hokies last week, the Mountaineers gave up 469 yards of total offense, including 234 yards on the ground. West Virginia also gave up 31 points to Virginia Tech on Sunday night. Now, the Mountaineers will go up against a much less formidable opponent — a Pirates team that gained just 362 yards against James Madison a week ago. Although West Virginia will have one less day to prepare this week, the coordinator Tony Gibson's defense should be more than ready for the East Carolina offense.
2. East Carolina’s quarterback situation
Gardner Minshew started the game for the Pirates at quarterback, but he wasn’t the player who finished it. Duke graduate transfer Thomas Sirk relieved Minshew and finished 21-of-35 for 210 yards and two interceptions in the loss to James Madison. East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery has already named Sirk the starting quarterback against West Virginia. With the possibility of an 0-2 start, expect Montgomery to employ a short leash if Sirk struggles.
3. Will Grier
In his first start since 2015, Grier was excellent for the Mountaineers as he finished 31-of-53 for 371 yards and three touchdowns against Virginia Tech. On Monday, Montgomery talked about how sharp Grier looked in his first game for the Mountaineers. “You know the biggest deal is that you can’t give guys like Will that many open spaces to throw the ball,” Montgomery said. “You have got to put pressure on him. You’ve got to move him off the spot. I thought they moved him off the spot a couple of times, but I thought protection in the interior, for the most part, for West Virginia was pretty good. He was able to stand in there, and he’s not going to miss shots.” Last week against the Dukes, the Pirates gave up 614 total yards of offense. With the Mountaineers posing more of a challenge, expect Grier and company to put up similar numbers.
Not to take anything away from James Madison, but if East Carolina was dominated by the Dukes, then the Pirates likely don’t have much of a shot against West Virginia. Not only do the Mountaineers have an outstanding quarterback, but they can also run the ball efficiently. This game could be out of hand by halftime.
Final Score: West Virginia 55, East Carolina 10
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
(Top photo courtesy of www.wvusports.com)