GREENVILLE, N.C. — With a pair of desperate, one-win teams meeting at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday, the BYU-East Carolina game may resemble two one-armed men punching at the wind.
Call it the Dismal-Futility Bowl, which kicks off at 5 p.m. MDT (CBSSN).
Though more than 2,000 miles separate the BYU and ECU campuses, the two programs have a lot in common these days — namely, they both sport embarrassing 1-6 records.
“They’re kind of in the same position we are. Someone is going to win on Saturday,” coach Kalani Sitake said of East Carolina. “It’s whoever is going to make the most improvement this week and who can establish their strengths on Saturday night. They’re going to have the same issues that we are and we’ll see what happens.”
BYU is one of the worst offensive teams in the country, while ECU is one of the worst defensive teams in the nation.
The Cougars are No. 128 (out of 129 teams) in total offense; No. 128 in scoring offense; No. 118 in passing offense; and No. 125 in rushing offense.
The Pirates are No. 129 in total defense; No. 129 in scoring defense; No. 127 in rushing defense; No. 129 in pass defense.
So what happens when an offense that is averaging 11.4 points and 242 yards per game faces a defense that gives up an average of 50 points and 600 yards of offense per game?
“You might think it puts more pressure on us,” Cougar quarterback Tanner Mangum said about facing a woeful ECU defense. “But at the end of the day, we’re just trying to get wins. That’s all we need. We need to get into that win column, get that second win.
"I’m not going to worry too much about statistically speaking who matches up better or who’s had a better year. We’re just trying to go in there and play our game and come out with a victory. That’s all that matters to us.”
Both teams have played arduous schedules to this point, with BYU having fallen to nationally-ranked LSU and Wisconsin. ECU has lost to four nationally-ranked teams, West Virginia (56-20), Virginia Tech (64-17), South Florida (61-31), and Central Florida (63-21).
“They’re athletic. They played Virginia Tech pretty well. They can score some points and they have some speed,” Sitake said. “We respect them and what they can do on the field. I don’t look at records or anything but personnel and talent — what I see on the field.”
The Cougars have lost six games in a row while the Pirates have dropped three straight. BYU’s only win came against Big Sky foe Portland State, 20-6. ECU’s lone victory was against Connecticut, 41-38.
“They’re athletic. They’ve played some good teams,” Mangum said. “They don’t give up. They fight, they play hard and they have some good players on their defense.”
Like Sitake, ECU coach Scottie Montgomery is in his second year at the helm. His team is 2-13 in its last 15 games, dating back to last season.
Among the challenges that ECU has faced include the suspension last week of two graduate transfers and changing defensive coordinators three games into the season.
Heading into this contest against BYU, Montgomery has pleaded for ECU fans to support his team this weekend.
“The main reason I ask this is because of the sacrifice of our football players,” said Montgomery. “The next thing is supporting the university and supporting and serving our colors. This isn’t easy. There is no rhyme or reason to what has happened. But what I’ll do is that I will say I know that true Pirate fans will come out and support us.
“I understand how hard it is to watch a product not be the way that you want it to be,” Montgomery continued. “But I can guarantee that these guys in the locker room are giving every single thing that they have. We are working as hard as we possibly can and the product will get better. I want people to be there so they can see it when it starts to turn.”
Offensively, the Pirates have shown the capability of rolling up yardage and scoring points.
ECU ranks No. 30 in passing offense, averaging 286.6 yards per game. Quarterback Thomas Sirk has completed 116 of 210 passes for 1,473 yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. Wide receiver Davon Grayson has caught 37 passes for 631 yards and six touchdowns.
It’s been a season filled with lowlights for BYU and East Carolina. Though it may not look pretty on the field, one team will produce a much-needed highlight — a win — on Saturday.
Cougars on the air
at East Carolina (1-6)
Saturday, 5 p.m. MDT Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM