ECU offense hoping to get in a groove despite short week

Published 7:35 pm Thursday, September 28, 2017

GREENVILLE — East Carolina headed north to take on Connecticut in an odd Sunday game last weekend. In what should have been the Pirates’ bye week, Thomas Sirk came uncorked for 426 passing yards — a career best for the journeyman quarterback. Receiver Davon Grayson hauled in 11 passes for 223 yards, both career highs, and three touchdowns.

ECU netted 170 yards on the ground. Sirk also had his best rushing performance of the season. Tyshon Dye had two touchdowns. Derrell Scott and Hussein Howe also scored a touchdown apiece.

Now, after getting in a groove on attack, the Pirates are tasked with carrying it over to Saturday’s clash with South Florida. The Bulls, among the best the American Athletic Conference has to offer, played last Thursday while ECU faces a short week.

Is there a loftier challenge? Head coach Scottie Montgomery said he’d be more concerned if, like USF, the Pirates had more time off than less.

“The biggest deal is to make sure that you are rested and you are playing another game,” he said. “Sunday night for us is normally a practice, well it was a game this week so we got a chance to get a lot better on Sunday. … I worry about 10-day or 9-day weeks especially if they have a Saturday or Sunday in them that I am not really accounted for.”

Focus is going to be the key once Saturday’s noon kickoff arrives. ECU will look to come out firing on its first offensive possession. It worked last weekend. The Pirates found the end zone on their first three drives. They brought Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to life against Virginia Tech when they converted on their first two opportunities, which included a 76-yard bomb to Trevon Brown.

ECU was even able to march down the field on its first chance at West Virginia, even though things stalled and it settled for a field goal.

The objective is to give the home crowd something to feed off of right away. It puts the 18th-ranked Bulls in an uncomfortable position. If they need time to settle in, it could allow the Pirates to hang around.

“I like to stay on a schedule. That’s my preference,” offensive coordinator Tony Petersen said. “I would rather be us short a day than be them with extra days off. That’s just been my experience in the past. I think it’s easier to stay focused and bounce back in a hurry rather than have a little extra time.”

Sirk isn’t putting much stock into ECU being short a day or South Florida having extra time off. The Duke graduate transfer has experienced it all in college football.

“Each game is so important to you that you stay locked in. You stay locked in to what you have to do, and you stay locked in to what your opponent is doing,” he said. “If you don’t stay focused, they’re going to come out and they’re going to be the more prepared team. When we step onto the field each Saturday, we want to look and be the most prepared team.”

ECU will have to be, by far, the most prepared team. It’s offense continues to find a groove as all the pieces get better acquainted, but the Bulls roll into Greenville with the 13th-best defense in college football in terms of total defense. Their playmaking secondary will make building on last week’s performance more than a little difficult.