Mountaineers top ECU in a landslide
By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector
Saturday, September 9, 2017
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The mountain got a lot steeper for East Carolina on Saturday afternoon.
A Pirate football team that entered the day with just one win in its last 11 games stretched it to one in 12 in a historic trouncing at the hands of host West Virginia, 56-20.
ECU (0-2) coughed up 49 first-half points, the most the team has ever allowed in an opening half, and WVU had the luxury of sitting starting quarterback Will Grier for most of the second half after a command performance.
The Mountaineers led 21-3 after the first quarter and had 199 yards of offense in those 15 minutes alone. They upped the edge to 49-3 at the intermission and added just one more unneeded score in the second half of the rout.
“All in all, it's not where we want to be, and at halftime, definitely not where we want to be, but we wanted to come out and definitely win the second half,” Montgomery said. “There are no moral victories, but we did get better in the second half.”
ECU scored the first 10 points of the second half, including starting quarterback Thomas Sirk hitting receiver Jimmy Williams for a 19-yard TD. Later, backup Gardner Minshew connected with Trevon Brown for a 95-yard TD, the longest in school history, but it was far too late by then.
“Every single person needs to do their job on every single play, and you can't stress that enough,” Montgomery said. “Our plan was to slow the game down a little bit (when down 7-3), but once we got behind so much, it was very hard to do that.”
Montgomery stressed that the team has not lost confidence, adding that, “What we lost was to a good football team today.”
Sirk finished his first ECU start with with 191 pass yards, two interceptions and his first TD as a Pirate, but he left the game early with an apparent upper body injury. Minshew added 137 yards and a TD.
Brown's long TD coupled with one other catch gave the receiver 103 yards, followed by Williams' team-best seven receptions for 86 yards and a TD, and Davon Grayson's five grabs for 76 yards.
Linebacker Jordan Williams led the defense with 11 tackles and a tackle for loss, followed by safety Tim Irvin with nine stops. Tyree Owens had a pair of stops for loss and Kiante Anderson had the Pirates' lone sack.
“We did what we could, tried to get to the quarterback as much as possible,” Anderson said of playing against WVU's fast-moving offense. “Them throwing up balls and wide receivers catching them, it's disappointing. Honestly, (the up-tempo offense) was probably one of our weaknesses in the beginning. Their tempo just caught us off guard.”
Grier rifled five touchdown passes to go with 352 yards, tailback Justin Crawford went for 118 yards and two TDs and receiver David Sills V exploded for three TDs on 153 yards receiving.
WVU outgained ECU in total yards 619-470.
“Their tempo bothered us a lot, but not as much as the quarterback making just unbelievable throws,” Montgomery said, lauding the play of his defensive front but saying once plays were past his linemen, there was little stopping the Mountaineers. “They just big-played us in the first half. We've got to find a way to stop these (big) plays from happening to us at this point.”
Defensively for WVU, Kyzir White snared both picks and Al-Rasheed Benton had eight tackles.
The Pirates, who lost a 34-14 shocker to James Madison on opening night a week prior, must now put the pieces back together again before hosting Virginia Tech, which beat WVU to open the season, this Saturday.
Montgomery and his players collectively contended that the second-half success by the Pirates brings at least some hope of a turnaround, but the head coach also stressed the need to come into games with much more determination.
“The first half, defensively, we didn't show up at all,” Montgomery said. “At times, it was almost like we were playing with 10 out there. We've got to be much better than we were. In the first half offensively, you look at the penalties and what the interception did to us at crucial times in the game.”
Despite some promising early moments, the Pirates were crushed under a 49-point, 479-yard avalanche in the first half.
WVU needed just more than 11 minutes in possession to accumulate those seven touchdowns, and the hosts failed to score on just one drive in the half. That was a missed field goal, meaning WVU was not even forced to punt.
Also, Grier amassed 329 of his pass yards and threw four TDs in that span, while Crawford also racked up a game's worth of numbers with 110 rush yards and two TDs.
Sills had two of his scores on 149 receiving yards, including a 75-yard strike from Grier, who also heaved a perfect 52-yard laser to Marcus Simms to the end zone as WVU poured it on.
ECU started brightly, albeit briefly, after giving up an immediate touchdown, manufacturing a scoring drive of their own on their opening possession. They drove inside the 10, where Sirk overthrew a wide-open Deondre Farrier and ECU settled for Jake Verity's 23-yard field goal.
Contact Nathan Summers at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.