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Pirates return to Boone in Family Weekend showdown

Illustration+by+Rian+Hughes
Rian Hughes
Illustration by Rian Hughes

After a heartbreaking double overtime loss in Chapel Hill, the Mountaineers return to defend their home turf for a Family Weekend matchup against East Carolina Saturday.

“You watch the tape and they’re 0-2 right now, but that’s not an 0-2 football team,” head coach Shawn Clark said. “With Coach Houston you look at where he’s been Lenoir Rhyne, the Citadel, James Madison, now East Carolina, he’s a ball coach he’ll have his kids ready to play.”

These two teams last met in 2021 as the Mountaineers won 33-19 in Charlotte. This was the only meeting of the two programs since 2012 and the first time these two teams will play in Boone since 1979.

The Pirates opened up their season with two straight losses, a 30-3 drubbing against No. 2 Michigan and a 31-13 loss against Marshall, where the Pirates led going into the fourth quarter but allowed three touchdowns to give the Thundering Herd the comeback win.

The Pirates are led by starting quarterback Mason Garcia. The dual-threat quarterback threw for 62 yards on 23 pass attempts and one touchdown along with one interception against Marshall, but rushed for 118 yards on 16 carries.

“We know a lot about Mason Garcia through the recruiting process, he has a big-time arm, he’s very accurate, his ability to run the football and they have some designed runs at the quarterback position for him,” Clark said.

The rest of the Pirates offense has been less than impressive so far this season, scoring 16 points between their first two games of the season.

The East Carolina defense allowed more than 30 points in each of the first two games of the season. They’ve also allowed 270.5 passing yards and 126.5 rushing yards per game while totaling zero interceptions and sacks.

“On their defensive side they have great players,” Clark said. “I mean they do; you look at them, they like to mix the front up, they like to bring pressure at times, we have to do a really good job up front to have a chance to win this Saturday.”

The Mountaineers totaled 494 yards of offense against the Tar Heels, recording 275 passing and 219 rushing yards. Junior quarterback Joey Aguilar threw for 275 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 43 attempts. Junior running back Nate Noel ran for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries.

If the Mountaineers gameplan to keep Aguilar upright and limit the Pirates offense, it will guide the Black and Gold to 2-1 on the year.

The Mountaineers will play without redshirt junior outside linebacker Brendan Harrington, who tore his ACL against North Carolina, ending his season.

“It’s a tough loss with Brendan, he’s went through a lot of injuries here with his shoulder and now is a lower body injury and it breaks — it just breaks my heart to see him go through that,” Clark said. “He’s a great player, he’s a better person and there’s a lot of great things ahead for Brendan in life and he has one more year of eligibility if he chooses to come back.”

The Mountaineers and Pirates kick off at 3:30 p.m. and the game can be streamed on ESPN+.

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About the Contributors
Clay Durban
Clay Durban, Reporter
Clay Durban (he/him) is a junior digital journalism major from Asheville, NC. This is his first year with The Appalachian.
Rian Hughes
Rian Hughes, Associate Graphics Editor
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