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Game Center: East Carolina 37, Ohio 20

Dec. 23, 2013 • Tropicana Field • Attendance: 20,053 • The Season

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Inside Game Day
Monday, December 23, 2013

By Al Myatt

ECU steps up at gut-check time

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

ST. PETERSBURG, FL — East Carolina showed a lot of qualities in a 37-20 Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl win over Ohio on Monday afternoon at Tropicana Field.

ECU displayed its talent, imagination and versatility in reaching 10 wins for only the second time in school history.

Most apparent was the Pirates' character.

Lesser teams would not have been able to pull together like ECU did in the fourth quarter.

The gritty Bobcats (7-6) had taken a 20-17 lead with 13:34 to go on a 28-yard field goal by Josiah Yazdani. Then Ohio recovered an onside kick.

The possibility of a fifth straight bowl loss for the Pirates looked very real.

Instead of letting the Bobcats seize the momentum at the potential turning point, ECU used the situation as a springboard.

Ohio moved from its 48 to the Pirates' 28 where it appeared Adonis Armstrong had intercepted. But Tyler Tettleton's pass was ruled incomplete.

The call stood after review.

Tettleton threw incomplete on the ensuing third down and Yazdani missed a 45-yard field goal attempt.

The Bobcats drew a pair of 15-yard penalties as ECU moved 71 yards for the go-ahead score on a 31-yard run by senior Vintavious Cooper, who set the six-year old bowl's rushing record with 198 yards.

That gave the Pirates a 24-20 lead. ECU had gone on top 14-0 in the first quarter but Ohio had answered with some deep balls.

This time the defense sensed the kill.

A three-and-out allowed offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley an opportunity to show his resourcefulness.

After a Shane Carden pass to Justin Hardy at the 1-yard line was overturned on review, Riley called, "Cam," with the Pirates facing 2nd-and-10 at the Ohio 14.

"Lincoln always has a couple of what I call creative plays every game," said ECU coach Ruffin McNeill. "Lincoln just tells me, 'Here it comes.' "

Receiver Cam Worthy took a lateral from quarterback Shane Carden on the left side and Carden headed for the end zone.

"I was watching and I saw two guys out there on Shane," McNeill said. " ... A great throw by Cam and a great catch by the Captain (Carden)."

Cooper, ECU's MVP of the game, said the bit of trickery has been in the playbook.

"Cam had thrown a couple of duds in practice," Cooper said. "But today was the right time. ... It was time for a haymaker. Shane turned into Randy Moss down there."

It was SportsCenter kind of stuff.

Damon Magazu and Brandon Williams had interceptions for ECU after Carden's catch.

Cooper nailed down the win with a 22-yard scoring run after the pick by Williams.

"I don't think any team in the country believes in each other more than we do," said ECU linebacker Derrell Johnson, a four-year starter who McNeill calls a "war daddy."

Atoning for a 59-28 loss at Marshall in the regular-season finale was definitely on the Pirates' to-do list.

"That wasn't the Pirate Way," Cooper said. "We have a higher standard."

ECU showed a national audience on ESPN what it was made of when it outscored the Bobcats 20-3 in the fourth quarter.

Coincidentally, that's the time when strength and conditioning coach Jeff Connors looks for his efforts to kick in.

Fixing the leaks

Although the Pirates were two-touchdown favorites, there was the contradictory aspect of Ohio's 34-31 win over Marshall on Sept. 14 while ECU lost 59-28 to the Thundering Herd in Huntington, WV, for Conference USA's East Division championship on Nov. 29.

Presumably, the Bobcats coaches scoured the ECU tape of their lone common opponent to determine what the Herd did to hand the Pirates their only decisive loss of the season.

Marshall ran for 267 yards against ECU, humbling a unit that allowed an average of 117.5 rushing yards per game for the season and ranked 15th nationally.

The Herd also put pressure on Carden, who leads the nation in completion rate at 71 percent. Marshall had just one sack but 12 quarterback hurries as Carden connected on 29 of 52 passes, a subpar 55.7 percent. Carden did not have a scoring pass for the first time in 20 games and he had three passes picked off.

How well ECU addressed the issues of stopping the run and protecting Carden since the flop against the Herd figured to be important factors at Tropicana Field on Monday afternoon.

"We had to correct some things and be assignment-sound," said Pirates linebacker Derrell Johnson.

As far as Ohio's running game was concerned, it produced 107 yards on 37 attempts, just 2.9 yards per carry.

Carden was sacked twice but he generally had more time than at Marshall. He completed 29 of 45 for 273 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. His 64.4 completion percentage for the game was more in keeping with his performance for the season.

Harvey hits field goal

Facing a 4th-and-10 at the Ohio 24 late in the first half, the Pirates opted to send Warren Harvey in for a field goal attempt. Harvey, who had his struggles during the season, most notably in ECU's previous dome appearance in New Orleans in a 36-33 triple overtime loss to Tulane, nailed a 41-yarder Monday afternoon to give ECU a 17-14 lead with 1:01 left in the half. The Pirates had failed twice when they had gone for it previously on fourth down.

Harvey missed a 29-yarder in the third quarter but his ECU teammates had his back.

First pick for Dobson

Converted running back Micheal Dobson made his first career interception for ECU to stop Ohio's first series. The diving pick by Dobson led to ECU's first TD. After pass attempts on their first five offensive snaps, the Pirates got a 34-yard run by Cooper to set up a 5-yard fade pass to Worthy for a 7-0 lead.

Dobson filled in for Chip Thompson and had a game-high 14 tackles.

"I'm very happy for Dob," McNeill said. "He wanted to quit two years ago and we talked him out of it."

Carden cranks it up

Carden had four completions for 57 yards on ECU's second scoring drive, which Breon Allen finished with a 2-yard run. Isaiah Jones had two catches for 20 yards on the 76-yard drive. Allen had a reception for 25 yards. Carden also connected with Zico Pasut for 12 yards.

Justin Hardy finished with nine catches for 66 yards. Jones had eight receptions for 48 yards.

Ohio uses long ball

In a park where Evan Longoria goes long for the Tampa Bay Rays, the Bobcats used the deep ball to advantage for a pair of first half scores. Tettleton, the son of former major league catcher Mickey Tettleton, had a 26-yard completion on Ohio's first scoring drive and the Bobcats got another 15 yards due to a late hit on the play.

Bobcats backup quarterback Derrius Vick sprinted out off of play action and hit Ohio MVP Donte Foster for an 80-yard touchdown that tied the score at 14 with 9:54 left in the first half.

"We felt like we had to use some trickery because they are a hard team to move the ball on," said Bobcats coach Frank Solich. " ... Turnovers were big, too, zero (for the Pirates) to three."

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12/27/2013 02:40:52 PM


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