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Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU/ECU Game

Oct 27, 2022, 1:44 PM | Updated: Oct 28, 2022, 2:35 pm
BYU/ECU, Holton Ahlers throws ball...
BYU will look to slow down ECU QB Holton Ahlers on Friday, October 28, 2022 in Provo. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – Friday night’s BYU/ECU game could be a do-or-die situation for BYU’s postseason hopes in 2022. The reeling Cougars host an East Carolina squad that feels confident after a big win over BYU’s fellow Big 12 invitee UCF.

The Pirates would probably love nothing more than to hand another “L” to a future Big 12 team.

After a humiliating 41-14 loss to Liberty last week in Lynchburg, BYU is left to wonder where they go from here. Last week was the game expected to serve as the week where BYU rallied. But instead, it left BYU with even more questions as the offense joined the defense in the long list of struggles facing this team.

“I know there are a lot of questions about what’s happening in our program. But this is what the culture of our program is built for,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake during his Coaches’ Show. “And so, in these times of adversity, this is the time where heroes are born.”

The time is now, or the clock will quickly expire on BYU’s season if they can’t pull out a victory on Friday night against the Pirates. Here are three storylines that could play a role in determining the game.

RELATED: BYU v. ECU: Game Day Preview & Score Predictions

BYU vs. ECU

Date: Friday, October 28, 2022

Kickoff: 6 p.m. (MT)

TV: ESPN2

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)

#1 The Care Factor

Bowl eligibility is on the line for BYU football. But is that enough to inspire a team that has underperformed this year? We’ll see. East Carolina is turning around their program, and they seem like a group that wants to build off the win over UCF and maintain that momentum for the rest of the year.

Kalani Sitake is calling BYU’s defense with a focus on simplifying the scheme to put playmakers in spots to make plays. It was a whirlwind last week with all of the changes, then add the travel to the east coast. But there’s no excuse this time around. The problem is that ECU’s offense is better than Liberty’s.

Pulling out a win against ECU for BYU would signify that there is legitimate care to get the season turned around.

#2 Turnovers

Both BYU and East Carolina are good at taking care of the football. BYU has only coughed up the ball five times this year, while the Pirates have only given it up seven times. A big difference is that the Pirates have had 13 takeaways to the Cougars nine.

In a game that is a projected toss-up, one turnover could swing things significantly.

#3 Balance on offense

BYU is down their top running back, Chris Brooks, coming into Friday night’s matchup. A significant loss for a team that was one-dimensional against Liberty. Without Brooks, BYU will turn to a combination of Lopini Katoa, Miles Davis, and wide receiver Puka Nacua at running back.

Jaren Hall had a subpar performance last week. Many wondered if his shoulder was the cause of the problems, but he and offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick chalked up the struggles to poor play rather than any lingering injury. Nevertheless, each felt the second-year starting QB needed to play better. Hall finished last week, completing less than 50% of his passes and throwing for only 187 yards.

On the flip side, East Carolina’s offense is trending up and has balance. The Pirates are 16th nationally in passing offense at 309.2 yards per game and 60th in rush offense. An even bigger worry for BYU is that ECU is seventh in third down conversion percentage at 52.5% this season. BYU’s defense is 128th out of 131 teams allowing a 48.7% conversion rate.

ECU QB Holton Ahlers is putting together high-level performances on a consistent basis now for the Pirates. BYU’s defense is anything but consistent at the moment.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU/ECU Game