Here is everything you need to know about the Mountaineers game on Saturday in our West Virginia vs. East Carolina preview.
Date: Saturday, September 9th 2017 | 12:00 pm ET | Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV
TV: Fox Sports 2 (Brian Custer, Ben Leber)
Radio: IMG Sports Network (Tony Caridi, Dwight Wallace, Jed Drenning) / Sirius/XM Channel 81
QB Will Grier
Considering it was his first live action in nearly two years and he was playing a Top 25 Virginia Tech team, Grier was damn impressive against the Hokies. He threw more than 50 passes for nearly 400 yards. Grier should be throwing less, but that’s not his fault. His performance was top notch and he will only get more comfortable as he gets more games under his belt. Overall, Sunday nights loss was a good sign of things to come in Morgantown.
LB Al-Rasheed Benton
Benton was all over the field on Sunday leading the team with eight tackles. But with how young the defensive is, Benton can’t just lead by example and needs to make sure his guys are all in the right position before the snap. It’s not easy, but it needs to be done considering all the new faces across every level of this defense.
WR Jimmy Williams
Williams had just four catches for 41 yards in ECU’s season-opening 20-point loss to James Madison. The 41 yards was only good for fourth most on the team. He’s the leading returning wide out and is one of the best wide receivers in the AAC. Williams is on the Biletnikoff Award watch list and hopes to make his presence felt a little more this Saturday.
QB Thomas Sirk
Sirk is a transfer from Duke who didn’t exactly “wow” in his debut, throwing zero touchdowns to two interceptions. Despite the rough game, Sirk was confirmed as the starter against West Virginia. ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery was Sirk’s offensive coordinator during his only season as starter at Duke in 2015. It’s time for those two to find that magic again, when Sirk completed 59% of his passes for 2625 yards, with 16 touchdowns to just eight interceptions (and Duke went 8-5).
Keys to the game
Run the ball
West Virginia did not utilize their strong stable of running backs like many felt they should have in the opener against Virginia Tech. Well now they face an ECU team that gave up 422 rushing yards in a loss to James Madison last week. Ironically, JMU’s Cardon Johnson ran for 265 yards, the most rushing yards ECU has allowed against single rusher since West Virginia’s KJ Harris had 337 in 2004.
Jake Spavital: run the damn ball!
This was an issue against Virginia Tech for the Mountaineers. The entire defense got worn down. Now comes East Carolina with it’s high-powered offense. The Pirates are replacing wide receiver Zay Jones, who set the NCAA single-season and career receptions records in 2016, but East Carolina has its next four leading receivers back from last season returning, led by the aforementioned Williams. This will be a nice warm up for the Big 12 receiving corps starting in a couple of weeks.
West Virginia 49, ECU 24
ECU finished 100th in the nation in defense last season. Needless to say the Mountaineers should have a much easier time scoring points this week than last week. Plus, Will Grier has officially knocked off the rust and this game will feel like checkers compared to the chess he was playing against Bud Foster’s defense. Spavital learns for his mistakes, while the defense continues to work out its kinks and builds a little more confidence.