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East Carolina will not bring home a conference championship or division
title this year. The Pirates still have a bowl game in coming weeks, but
the regular season ended in most disappointing fashion.
Marshall did anything and everything it wanted to in crushing the
Pirates' Conference USA title aspirations,
beating ECU in the regular season finale 59-28 on Friday
to claim the East Division crown.
The Herd jumped out to a 24-0 lead in the first half and then had
another touchdown on a punt return nullified that would have pushed the
lead to 31 points in the first half.
I know that coaches often speak in clichés. Pirate Coach Ruffin McNeill
likes to say his team just needs to make the routine plays. That was
never more evident than in the loss this past week.
Shane Carden and the high-powered offense never got on track until the
second half. Carden was behind on several passes early and the offense
never really got rolling until it was way too late.
“We usually do a great job of starting fast, and we came in and just
weren’t clicking on those first couple of drives,” Carden told reporters
after the game. “We couldn’t get anything going. We had to play from
behind the whole game and we just had a lot of things not go our
way….We’re a lot better than that and we know that.”
Coach Ruff agreed.
“We’ve had some tough starts but we’ve always battled back and played
the next play,” said McNeill. “They did a good job and they had some
momentum early, but I never thought we were out of it.”
The East Carolina defense also struggled with the season on the line.
The Thundering Herd rolled up 539 yards of total offense.
Essray Taliaferro rushed for 161 yards against his father’s alma mater.
The elder Taliaferro was a player when I first arrived in Greenville. He
played under Art Baker at East Carolina.
The younger Taliaferro also ran for 130 yards in
the 2012 game against 'Dad’s school.'
He told media afterwards that he was especially juiced for the Pirate
game. He played like he was fired up both years, running for 291 yards
in the two matchups.
While Marshall gets set for the Conference USA championship game at
Rice, the Pirates take a little break awaiting word on a bowl
Early speculation has the Pirates in either St. Petersburg, FL, for the
Beef O’Brady’s Bowl or in Annapolis, MD, for the Military Bowl. The Beef
O’Brady’s is Dec. 23, which is always problematic for those preparing
for Christmas. The Military Bowl is Dec. 27.
It’s important to point out that there are other options if leagues
start trading off slots because of matchups and commitments.
The regular season certainly didn’t end like the Pirate players, coaches
or fans wanted. Still, with road wins
over North Carolina and
North Carolina State and a 9-3 record, the year had
Now the goal is to win a bowl game, something the Pirates haven’t done
beating Boise State in the 2007 Hawaii Bowl.
A bowl win would move East Carolina's win total to double digits with
10. The only other time a Pirate football team had double digit wins was
1991 when East Carolina beat N.C. State in the Peach Bowl and finished
the season 11-1 with a Top Ten national ranking.
A bowl win wouldn’t rival 1991 but it would snap a current four-game
losing streak in bowls.
It might also take that bitter taste out of the Pirates' mouths as the
program looks forward to 2014 and the program's debut in the American
The way the regular season ended shouldn’t erase what this team has
accomplished this year.
Now for one more win in the bowl game.