NEW ORLEANS — Perspectives varied after
East Carolina's sixth bowl game in seven years resulted in
a 43-34 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette.
A weekend in which you could see one of
the top musical groups in history for free during a span in which an
ancient culture said the world would end made me rationalize that the
postseason setback had minor significance in comparison.
That the Pirates made a game of it
after falling behind by three touchdowns in the first half was a
positive for a still-building program. A blowout appeared imminent early
in the second quarter, which tied for the highest in bowl history with
45 points by the two teams. Those watching on ESPN who didn't have a
rooting interest probably appreciated the offensive show that produced
Speaking of shows, the Beach Boys were
one of the best things about the 2012 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
They performed at Champions Square
adjacent to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Friday night. There are huge
images of LSU coach Les Miles, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees
and former heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali among those overlooking the
brick plaza. Miles is hoisting the BCS crystal after winning the 2007
national championship in the Sugar Bowl. Brees capped the 2009 NFL
season by leading the Saints to a Super Bowl win.
Ali beat Leon Spinks for the last of
his heavyweight titles in 1978 in the first championship fight at the
The Beach Boys burst onto the charts
when Clarence Stasavich's single wing was decimating East Carolina
opponents in the mid-1960s. The personnel in the band has undergone
changes over the decades, as has the ECU offense, but the current group
moved seamlessly through a multitude of their hits to a receptive
At one point, cheerleaders from East
Carolina, several members of the marching band and the Pirate mascot
were summoned onto the stage at Champions Square, along with some
corresponding representation from Louisiana-Lafayette, and Mike Love
delivered the classic, "Be True to Your School." I thought the ECU
cheerleaders had superior choreography and outdanced their ULL
The Pirates did their best to be true
to their school's tradition and expectations but couldn't overtake the
Ragin' Cajuns at the Superdome on Saturday.
That the game was played at all was an
improvement on the dismal forecast of the world's demise, according to
the Mayan calendar.
The matchup was a virtual home game for
Louisiana-Lafayette, its red-clad fan base comprising most of the crowd
of 48,828. The Ragin' Cajuns may have gotten some home cooking, too, as
images showed that a 14-yard pass play from game MVP Terrance Broadway
to Javone Lawson appeared to hit the ground but was ruled a touchdown.
The resulting points put Louisiana-Lafayette ahead to stay at 37-31 with
3:07 left in the third quarter.
The Pirates, who had trailed 28-7 at
one point, answered ULL's questionable score with a 26-yard field goal
by Warren Harvey to trim the lead to 37-34 with 13:36 to go.
ECU had a possession to take the lead
after an interception by linebacker Gabriel Woullard at the ULL 39 with
12:18 remaining. But on second-and-five at the ULL 34, Pirates
quarterback Shane Carden was picked off by Jermarious Moten at the Ragin'
Cajuns' 8-yard line.
Carden, who completed 25 of 42 passes
for 278 yards with two touchdowns and one pick, said he saw the safety
come up to cover a drag route. His intended receiver was true freshman
"It was a post route," Carden said. "It
was the right read. I've just got to put the ball out there. There were
a couple of other throws I wish I could take back."
ECU (8-5) picked up just two first
downs on its last three possessions and didn't get back into ULL
territory. The last series started with five seconds remaining. Carden
passed to Justin Hardy for 10 yards, then Hardy lateraled to Danny
Webster, who tossed back to Vintavious Cooper, who pitched back to
Hardy. There was no reprise of the winning sequence by California
against Stanford in 1982, although the Pirates tried.
ULL's Boris Anyama brought Hardy to the
turf to end the game and the season.
It was a year in which ECU won five of
six before the trip to the Big Easy, but the Pirates have now lost six
of their last seven bowl games.
"We finished 7-1 in the league and won
a share of our division championship," said ECU coach Ruffin McNeill.
"It was definitely a successful season. ... I thought we got better as a
football team and as a program."
It was a tough way to go out for
seniors such as Andrew Bodenheimer, who led the ECU receivers with five
catches for 65 yards, and running back Reggie Bullock, who had 17
carries for 104 yards.
"It's always tough to lose the last
one, but at the same time you have to get the overall picture and what
we've accomplished," McNeill said. " ... I'm proud of our team. It's a
tough loss to swallow because the kids worked so hard."
McNeill said he was confident, even
after the Pirates fell behind 28-7. ECU sliced the margin to 28-21 on
Carden TD passes of 19 yards to Hardy and 16 yards to Webster.
"I felt very comfortable," said the
Pirates coach. "I didn't want to be behind, but knowing our guys and
what they've gone through, having faced these situations of adversity, I
knew we would fight back. I knew we'd bounce back. ... We just needed to
relax. We talk about execution. ... We talked at half about just making
the routine play."
Although the Pirates came up short,
they did ultimately compete. The seniors who leave the program will be
missed, but at this point, they aren't irreplaceable. ECU can look
forward with a significant degree of talent and experience. The focus of
spring ball won't be a four-man quarterback competition, all of which
brings to mind another classic performed by the Beach Boys, that applies
to the 2013 season.
View box score and statistics on ecupirates.com
Read game recap on ecupirates.com