Big games for ECU, Western
By Hank Kurz Jr.
AP Sports Writer
Liberty looks to remain unbeaten and keep riding the momentum of its record-setting season.
One week after a last-second victory at Virginia Tech and jumping three spots to No. 22 in the Top 25, the Flames (7-0) take on a Western Carolina team playing its first game in a split season due to the coronavirus.
The Catamounts also are looking to end a long losing streak; they have never beaten a Bowl Subdivision-level team in 57 attempts. They will be playing the first of three fall games before taking a break and returning to play eight more in the spring.
Flames coach Hugh Freeze told his team to cherish the memory of the dramatic victory against the Hokies and their rise in the polls. “This one has the same value as last week’s in the win-loss column,” he said.
Western Carolina coach Mark Speir, an A.L. Brown graduate, said his team will view the game much like an NFL preseason game: he wants to win, but also wants to get many players playing time and work to refine things.
He also knows Liberty will present a significant challenge in this team’s season-opener.
“They’re going to move the ball, they’re going to score some points. Let’s make them earn it. That’s my biggest thing,” Speir said. “.. They’re going to be hard enough to beat (with) us playing at our very best, but if we give them a lot because our emotions get the better of us … then this game will get ugly.”
Pirates will have hands full against No. 7 Cincinnati
By Jeff Wallner
CINCINNATI — Cincinnati has had one of the nation’s stingiest defenses the past three years. But last season, East Carolina scored 43 points and piled up 638 yards against the Bearcats.
Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said his returning defensive players haven’t forgotten.
“For us, it’s a redemption tour,” Fickell said. “Whether it’s Memphis, who beat us twice, or ECU with the numbers they put up against us. Things that happen last year don’t easily go by the wayside. You don’t easily forget.”
No. 7 Cincinnati (6-0, 4-0 AAC) faces the Pirates again on Friday night, with the Bearcats looking to extend their school-record home winning streak to 19 and keep alive their hopes of crashing the College Football Playoff.
The Bearcats have held their last five opponents to fewer than 13 points, including the high-octane offenses of Houston, Memphis and SMU. ECU (1-5, 1-4 American) is averaging nearly 30 points and 400 yards per game.
“Sometimes the record isn’t indicative of a team,” Fickell said. “If you’ve got a quarterback like they do, it gives them a lot of confidence. It’s a team on the rise.”
ECU senior quarterback Holton Ahlers has passed for 1,354 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Bearcats also are wary of sophomore receiver C.J. Johnson, who has 13 catches for 286 yards and a team-leading four touchdowns this season. In last year’s meeting, a 46-43 Bearcats victory, Johnson had 12 catches for 283 yards and a TD.