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East Carolina limps into clash with WVU

West Virginia quarterback Will Grier walks off the field after an NCAA college football game against Virginia Tech in Landover, Md., Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017. Virginia Tech won 31-24. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen fully supports pitting his Mountaineers against a marquee team in a neutral site nonconference opener.

It’s just, as he pointed out last week, the drawback this season is his team now has a short week of preparation after falling to Virginia Tech 31-24 on Sunday in Landover, Maryland.

The good news for WVU, though: The turnaround isn’t in preparation for your father’s East Carolina.

In the past, the Pirates were a formidable foe, even though WVU leads the series 18-3. The Mountaineers won the last matchup, 35-20, in Morgantown back in 2009. But in then-coach Bill Stewart’s first season at the helm, 2008, ECU defeated West Virginia by 24-3 in Greenville, North Carolina.

Now, Pirates coach Scottie Montgomery is feeling heat in just his second season in charge. In 2016, the Pirates went 3-9 overall and 1-7 in the American Athletic Conference and this past Saturday fell to FCS opponent James Madison 34-14. The Dukes rushed for 422 yards.

“We just couldn’t rush the ball and they rushed it extremely well against us,” Montgomery said on Sunday. “We didn’t go out and execute at the level we needed on offense or defense.

“Defensively, I thought some guys found a good rhythm in the second quarter at 7-0. Unfortunately, on offense, we didn’t make any plays.”

JMU had 614 total yards. ECU had 362. Now the Pirates will go against WVU quarterback Will Grier, whose father Chad played collegiately first at Richmond and then East Carolina.

“I’ve known Will for a while now,” Montgomery said. “I went to a Florida practice while he was there. He is exactly what I saw down there. He has the ability to extend plays. He’s accurate. He can throw it on the move. He’s elusive in the pocket, but when the pocket is there he’ll stay in there. Overall, a good player and knows how to use his weapons.”

ECU got off to a nice start last season by beating Western Carolina and even North Carolina State. It played South Carolina strong before losing.

The Pirates, though, won just one more game the rest of the season. Injuries hurt the team. Turnovers were a bugaboo. And the defense was porous, allowing an average of 40.1 points over the last nine games.

Also, East Carolina’s one bright spot, receiver Zay Jones, has moved on to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. He was the 37th pick of the most recent draft.

Saturday’s game in Morgantown will begin at noon and be shown on FS2.

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