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Hit the road: BYU's visit makes history

BYU Mississippi St Football-4

BYU's Zayne Anderson tries to tackle Mississippi State receiver Keith Mixon (23) last Saturday in Starkville, Miss., in a game that was 2,706 miles round-trip for BYU. Playing at ECU on Saturday is 3,772 miles round-trip.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, October 20, 2017

East Carolina football coach Scottie Montgomery and ECU athletics director Jeff Compher have both urged fans this week to show up in great force for Saturday’s homecoming game against BYU.

The atmosphere is likely to get a boost, compared to the past few games, with it being a 7 p.m. kickoff, and an added home field advantage should come naturally in the fact that BYU is located in Provo, Utah, and is set for a round-trip of almost 3,800 miles.

The one-way distance of 1,886 miles marks the longest trip by a visiting team to ever visit Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

“Definitely a home field advantage with our fans is one thing, but anytime you have to travel with a team and all the moving parts that go with that to come play a game, it makes it challenging,” Montgomery said when asked about the travel involved in the BYU-ECU matchup. “It would probably be even more challenging if it was a noon game. … If I were traveling out to Provo, then of course you would have concerns.”

This will be only the second time ECU has played BYU. The Pirates went there in 2015 — coach Ruffin McNeill’s final year — and lost 45-38 with an announced attendance of 60,186 at BYU’s LaVell Edwards Stadium.

What could hurt the Cougars in Saturday’s game of scuffling 1-6 teams is they played at Mississippi State last week, losing 35-10. That equals a two-week stretch of about 6,500 miles traveled.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake said Monday during his weekly news conference that his team typically leaves a day early when coming to the Eastern time zone, and that was the case again this week when it left Utah on Thursday. But the coach also didn’t want to overplay the travel factor.

“It is a Saturday night game, which will be fun and it won’t be as hot,” Sitake said. “I was very appreciative that we had great fans at the Mississippi State game that were there. It’s nice to see our fans at different places in the country, so we’re looking forward to that and having our guys regroup and going out a day early might be good for us.”

With six road games and a neutral-site contest, the Cougs are set for about 17,246 total miles away from home during the regular season.

The combined record of 2-12 by ECU and BYU has been in part because of difficult schedules thus far, which for BYU is less regulated because it is an independent and does not play conference games. The USA Today Sagarin rankings have the Pirates with the No. 28 toughest schedule in the country, and BYU at No. 16.

That combined with injuries have played into the teams’ struggles and depth concerns.

“I can’t really speak for if it’s similar or just alike (to ECU), but I will say that they have had a tough schedule,” Montgomery said. “Just look at it, and who plays LSU, Wisconsin, Mississippi State and Boise (State) and teams of those likes all in the first six weeks? That’s quite a schedule to have to play, especially when you are trying to get yourself going every week and all the injuries that go with playing physical teams like those teams.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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