COUGAR TRACKS

BYU Vs. ECU: Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction

Oct 28, 2022, 1:40 AM
BYU/ECU, Jaren Hall, Game Day...
BYU QB Jaren Hall squares off against ECU under the Friday Night Lights. (Photo by Chris Gardner/ Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/ Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – BYU/ECU gets the Friday Night Lights treatment. It’s only the third time that the two programs have ever met on the gridiron. The last meeting was disastrous for BYU, a 2017 loss to the Pirates in Greenville, North Carolina.

Reeling BYU will look to avoid a similar fate tonight as they come into the game on a three-game losing streak. The Pirates come into the cross-country matchup riding high after an upset win over UCF.

BYU vs ECU

Kickoff: 6 p.m. (MT)

TV: ESPN2

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)

Now it’s time for the 3-2-1 game preview for today’s matchup between BYU and ECU.

Three Game Day Thoughts

1. Bowl eligibility is at stake for BYU

After two abysmal performances against Arkansas and Liberty, BYU is projected as an underdog against upcoming opponents Boise State and Stanford. The Senior Day home game against Utah Tech is an automatic win, but after that one, there isn’t a game on the remaining schedule that is a lock.

At 4-4, BYU needs another victory besides Utah Tech to secure a postseason bowl spot. That would be a colossal failure to go from a 2-0 start and as high as No. 12 in the AP Top 25 poll to a season that results in no bowl game. Time to rally immediately.

2. Perfect time for a big Jaren Hall performance

One of the underrated storylines coming into this Friday night tilt is the health of Jaren Hall. Last week in the loss against Liberty, Hall was sub-50% in his completion rate and the offense as a whole struggled against the Flames.

It was easy to assume that it was another game where Hall was bothered by his shoulder that was originally injured against Utah State, then took another hard hit against Arkansas. But both Hall and OC Aaron Roderick felt QB1 was 100% last week against Liberty. Hall didn’t use the shoulder as an excuse for his play, saying to Unrivaled on the KSL Sports Zone that he needs to play better.

3. BYU’s defense needs to show proof of concept

Kalani Sitake is continuing to call the defense. Ilaisa Tuiaki maintains the defensive coordinator title, but his full-time role is with the defensive line. The past two week’s have been disasters for BYU’s defense. After a whirlwind of changes last week, and a cross-country trip, maybe it was too much for a BYU team that had its confidence shot, to take in. No excuses this week as they’ve been home and it’s ECU that has the long-distance travel.

BYU’s defense will give up yards, but can they be technically sound with tackling? Can they show there is a rhyme and reason to what they are doing as they move forward with the remainder of this season?

Two BYU vs ECU Questions

1. How motivated is BYU to pull itself out of this slump?

Since BYU became an Independent in 2011, the storyline of “what are you playing for” always comes up around Halloween. That question holds more clout this season after a strong start, is scratching and clawing to get to a bowl game enough to inspire this team to try and close out the year on a high note?

Kalani Sitake has stayed true to the fact that the culture of his program will win out amidst this adversity. Wide receiver Puka Nacua, defensive end Tyler Batty, and quarterback Jaren Hall are the guys that have to lead BYU out of this rut.

2. If BYU struggles early, how will they respond?

Let’s say ECU scores on their opening offensive series. Will it be a case of BYU players, coaches, and fans saying, “here we go again?” Or will they stand strong to bounce back? The mentality of this game is critical tonight. BYU has talent; there’s no shortage of talented personnel on this roster. But as Ilaisa Tuiaki said after the Arkansas loss, “confidence is shot.” With a team lacking confidence, it will be intriguing to watch how they respond to early struggles.

One score prediction for BYU vs ECU

East Carolina is seventh nationally in third down conversions. That’s a problem for a BYU defense that is 128th in the country in third down defense. So expect East Carolina’s offense to eat up the clock and put up points. BYU’s offense will perform similarly to what they did against Arkansas a few weeks back. But it won’t be enough as the Pirates get a second consecutive victory over a future Big 12 team.

ECU 40, BYU 34

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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