BYU loses 7th-straight game, falling at East Carolina

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GREENVILLE, N.C. — The misery continues for BYU football.

And for the first time in 13 years, the Cougars will not be going to a postseason bowl game.

East Carolina rolled up 417 yards of offense to hand BYU its seventh-straight loss, 33-17 Saturday night in Greenville, North Carolina.

The Cougars (1-7) lost seven in a row for the first time since 1968, when they finished 2-8 under then-head coach Tommy Hudspeth.

Thomas Sirk completed 14-of-21 passes for 177 yards, and also ran for a score to lead the Pirates.

After Sirk was injured in the second half, backup quarterback Gardner Minshew completed 5-of-8 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns for East Carolina (2-6).

After a disastrous 1-6 start, the Cougars knew they had to win six-straight games to fight back to 6-6 and have a chance at a bowl game with no direct tie-in in 2017. Instead, the Cougars will be staying home for the first time since 2004.

Tanner Mangum connected with Micah Simon with a 12-yard touchdown pass to give the Cougars (1-7) a 7-0 lead with 6:52 left in the first quarter. But the Cougars, who rank among the worst teams in the country in offensive production, failed to move the ball consistently.

East Carolina countered with Sirk’s 1-yard TD plunge at the end of the first quarter, and both teams settled for a 10-10 stalemate at halftime — only the second time in two seasons under head coach Kalani Sitake that BYU entered the locker room with a tie game.

Mangum was efficient in the passing game, but the junior signal caller didn’t eclipse the 100-yard passing mark until the Cougars’ final drive of the third quarter. Mangum finished with 319 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, becoming the first BYU quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards since the Las Vegas Bowl in 2015.

By halftime, fullback Brayden El-Bakri led BYU in receiving yards — with one catch for 17 yards.

BYU’s defense kept the Pirates’ offense in check, but a team that ranked last nationally in total offense added three field goals from Jake Verity to snatch a 19-10 lead going into the final period.

Verity tied an East Carolina school record with four field goals in a single game.

Alexa Hifo caught nine passes for 148 yards for BYU, becoming the Cougars’ first receiver to eclipse the 100-yard mark since Mitch Mathews graduated two years ago.

Tight end Matt Bushman added 24 yards and his first career touchdown reception for BYU.

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