All rights reserved.
View the Mobile Alpha version of this page.
East Carolina will soon be packing for St. Pete and its December 23 date
with Ohio in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl at Tropicana Field.
The Pirates were relegated to the trip to Florida after
falling to Marshall on “Black Friday.”
While there was some talk that a Rice upset win over the Thundering Herd
in Saturday's Conference USA championship game might send ECU to the
Liberty Bowl, that never materialized. When everything shook out, the
Pirates were headed south.
The only real confusion was on the Pirates' opponent. Most experts had
East Carolina matched up with Toledo from the Mid-American Conference.
Instead, the Pirates will get a 7-5 Ohio team in St. Petersburg. The
Bobcats are also from the MAC. Toledo ended up not getting a bowl berth
Ohio beat Marshall and started the year at 6-2, but the Bobcats stumbled
down the stretch, losing three of their last four games.
The Pirates went back to work on Sunday on a cold, dreary day in
Greenville. Pirate coach Ruffin McNeill spoke to his team about strong
leadership during the bowl season. Like most coaches, McNeill wants to
use the bowl preparation time to not only get ready for the game, but to
also develop some of his younger players that will be such a key part of
the spring season.
“Today’s practice was good and it was great to get around them,” said
McNeill after the first workout. “These are what we call ‘varsity
sharps’ where it’s a high tempo pace, each rep is valuable like they all
are but even more valuable right now because it’s almost an NFL type
situation. We want to keep our old guys and starters fresh but we use
the latter part of practice after they finish to work our young guys so
they can get a head start on spring.”
The Pirates haven’t won a bowl game since
the Hawaii Bowl in 2007. Add in the loss to Marshall to end the
regular season and it’s a very hungry Pirate football team that heads to
“We’ve had a loss earlier this year against Virginia Tech,” said Carden.
“We had a week off then and I just wanted to play the next game and we
had a week off and I thought that was a turn needed to play the next
game. This is obviously a lot longer than that and this past week has
been really weird. Usually we're up here Monday watching film on the
next opponent and we haven’t had anyone to watch. I’m kind of glad to
get back out there to throw the ball around and work a little bit.”
Carden also looks forward to heading south.
“It will feel good,” he added. “It’s going to be warm down there. It’s
been a little chilly here so it will be nice to get down there with the
Tropicana Field seats 43,772 and is the home of the Tampa Bay Rays in
Major League Baseball. I had a chance to go the Final Four there in 1999
and my media seat was in one of the dugouts.
I always thought that a place as nice as the Tampa/St. Petersburg area
should have an outdoor stadium. The many rain showers and intense summer
heat prompted the indoor facility. Just down the road sits tiny Al Lang
Stadium, which is a beautiful facility that sits next to the water.
There have been proposals for an outdoor stadium, but Tropicana Field
“We are looking forward to playing in a dome again,” said Pirate
linebacker Zeek Bigger. “It will be warm down there so it will be nice
to get into the warm weather.”
Coach Ruff knows Florida is a recruiting hotbed and his Pirates will get
a chance to perform in one of the Sunshine State’s biggest stages.
“We hit that area hard in recruiting,” said McNeill. “We are certainly
looking forward to playing there.”
Bowls before Christmas are always a bit of a tough sale. The hustle and
bustle of the Christmas season just isn’t conducive with a bowl trip.
Still, it’s a bowl in which the Pirates haven’t played. And it’s a
chance for ECU to break its bowl losing streak.
Add in a shot at a 10-win season and this football team will head to
Florida with plenty to play for.