GREENVILLE, N.C. — For the second consecutive week, BYU will travel east of the Mississippi River, this time for the Cougars' second-longest road trip of the 2017 season as the program will play its first ever game in the state of North Carolina. This will be the second all-time meeting between the two schools, with BYU winning in Provo in 2015.
Here are five numbers for Cougars fans to watch for as the Cougars look to begin a turnaround for their season on Saturday (5:00 p.m. MT, CBS Sports Network).
Since the 2005 season, BYU has traveled to the Eastern Time Zone to play a game 15 different times. Their record currently is 5-9. Most recently, the Cougars played in this area of the country three times during the 2016 season; the team picked up wins against Michigan State and Cincinnati and a loss to West Virginia.
Generally, BYU has struggled on trips back East, compiling an overall record of 10-21 dating back to 1976. For BYU to extend its current bowl game streak to 13 games, they must beat the Pirates this weekend.
If BYU’s offense is going to start clicking this season, this might be the best chance for the Cougars to turn things around. The East Carolina defense is ranked dead last in total defense, having given up 4,200 total yards so far this season in seven games, on only 542 plays. That works out to 7.7 yards allowed per play.
The Pirates have allowed 327.9 yards passing per game (ranked No. 128) and another 272.1 yards rushing (No. 126) for a total of 600.0 yards per game. Only five other FBS teams are allowing more 500 or more yards per game at this point of the season.
One of the focal points of the Pirates' offense has been senior wide receiver Davon Grayson. According to the ECU Football website, the Cleveland, Ohio native has already earned his degree and is pursuing a second degree as a graduate student this season.
During his final year of eligibility Grayson has already been credited with 631 yards on 37 receptions (17.05 yards per catch) and six touchdowns. Grayson has proven that he can be explosive, as he accumulated 223 yards and a season-long catch of 75 yards against UConn three weeks ago. His final stats this season will most likely eclipse all of his previous seasons combined. The Cougar defense will need to keep him in check on Saturday.
Last Saturday, BYU cornerback Dayan Ghanwoloku registered two interceptions and returned those picks for a total of 105 yards. That marked the first time that a Cougar defender has registered two interceptions in the same game since Kai Nacua had two against Utah in the second week of the 2016 season.
The sophomore now has five career interceptions for 218 total return yards, which ranks him fifth all-time in career interception return yards. After registering 12 interceptions as a team in the 2016 season, BYU has only five so far this season. Ghanwoloku — or another member of the Cougar defense — could help their offense by creating more turnovers, especially against an ECU offense that is giving up 1.86 turnovers per game.
Both of these teams have had awful starts to their seasons, with identical 1-6 records. The Pirates have struggled a little bit more, losing their six games by an average of 33.17 points per game. The Cougars haven’t fared much better, losing their six contests by an average of 20.84 points. Whichever team is going to get their second win will need to hold their opponent below their current scoring offense and defense averages.
East Carolina is averaging 22 points per game on offense, which ranks them No. 106 in scoring offense. The Pirates are allowing 50.0 points per game on the defensive side of the ball, which is last in FBS. In comparison, BYU is averaging only 11.4 per game (No. 128) on offense while giving up 27.3 (No. 78).
Landon Walters studied history and political science at Salt Lake Community College. He is an avid sports fan and loves writing. Email: [email protected]