From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Brian Bailey
WNCT-TV 9 Sports Director

Brian Bailey

Pirates hungry for a bowl win

Audio: Brian Bailey Show
The Brian Bailey Show airs on Pirate Radio 1250 and 930 on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. This week's guests were Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl executive director Brett Dulaney and ECU director of football administration Dale Steele: Replay show...

Pirates hungry for a bowl win


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ECU basketball coach Jeff Lebo and players Antonio Robinson and Akeem Richmond met with the press after the Pirates' win over Fayetteville State: Select clip...

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Recruiting thumbnails updated: Garrett McGhin, Desmond Barmore...


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Audio: Coach Lebo & Players
ECU basketball coach Jeff Lebo and players Akeem Richmond and Antonio Robinson met with the press after the Pirates' win over Fayetteville State: Select clip...

By Brian Bailey
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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 at all.

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 the postseason.

“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 warm weather.”

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 carries on.

“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.


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12/10/2013 06:06 AM