Florida 28, East Carolina 20 | Legion Field | Attendance: 30,083  TV: ESPN

Inside Game Day | Photo Gallery... | Post-game Audio... | The Season

>>>  AAC BOWL SCOREBOARD  >>> ..... Miami Beach Bowl: Memphis 55, BYU 48 [2OT] ..... Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl: N.C. State 34, UCF 27 ..... Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman: Virginia Tech 33, Cincinnati 17 ..... Lockheed Armed Forces Bowl: Houston 35, Pittsburgh 34 ..... Birmingham Bowl: Florida 28, ECU 20 ..... .....

Inside Game Day
Saturday, January 3, 2015

By Al Myatt

Past intersects with present on crucial pick

Post-game Audio

ECU coach Ruffin McNeill and seniors Brandon Williams, Justin Hardy and Shane Carden met with the news media after the Pirates' 28-20 loss to Florida on Saturday in the Birmingham Bowl (recorded by W.A. Myatt): Select audio clip...


Senior receiver Justin Hardy catches his last TD as a Pirate, putting ECU up 7-0 in the first quarter after a successful Warren Harvey PAT. [W.A. Myatt photo]

View more pix in W.A. Myatt's photo gallery...


AAC Bowl Scoreboard

Miami Beach Bowl
Marlins Park
Miami, FL
Dec. 22 2 p.m. ESPN
Memphis 55, BYU 48 (2OT)
Attendance: 20,761
Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl
Tropicana Field
St. Petersburg, FL
Dec. 26 8 p.m. ESPN
N.C. State 34, Central Florida 27
Attendance: 26,675
Northrop Grumman Military Bowl
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
Annapolis, MD
Dec. 27 1 p.m. ESPN
Virginia Tech 33, Cincinnati 17
Attendance: 34,277
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Amon G. Carter Stadium
Fort Worth, TX
Jan. 2 Noon ESPN
Houston 35, Pittsburgh 34
Attendance: 37,888
Birmingham Bowl
Legion Field
Birmingham, AL
Jan. 3 Noon ESPN
Florida 28, East Carolina 20
Attendance: 30,083


Bulls pull away from ECU

TAMPA, FL Host South Florida pulled away late to defeat East Carolina 58-50 on Saturday night and drop the Pirates to 0-2 in the American Athletic Conference. "They finished off the game," said Pirates coach Jeff Lebo. " ... We didn't make the tough plays you need to finish the game ... More...

Next: ECU at Cincinnati | Tue., 7 pm | TV: ESPNU



Kevin's Keys to the Game

The East Carolina Pirates will tangle with the Florida Gators today in the Birmingham Bowl on historic Legion Field. Florida will be ECU's toughest test of the year defensively. ... More from Kevin Monroe...



Past results don't predict the future

If I had told you in August that East Carolina would shake up the regional power structure with September victories over North Carolina and Virginia Tech, would you have accused me of wearing purple-tinted glasses?. ... More from Greg Vacek...



Late bowl date has pros and cons

By the time the East Carolina football team charges out of the tunnel onto historic Legion Field for its Birmingham Bowl game against Florida on Saturday, all but two of the 39 games on the postseason schedule will have already been completed.  ... More from Brett Friedlander...



Tulane takes AAC opener at ECU

GREENVILLE Tulane's Jonathan Stark hit four of five attempts from beyond the arc as the Green Wave took a 67-59 American Athletic Conference win over East Carolina at Williams Arena in Minges Coliseum on Wednesday afternoon. Stark scored 22 points and Louis Dabney added 19 for Tulane (10-3, 1-0 AAC). ... More...

Next: ECU at USF | Sat., 7 pm | TV: ESPN3



Pirates busy to start off bowl week

The East Carolina Pirates arrived in Birmingham on Monday to kick off bowl week in this Alabama city. ECU will face Florida from the SEC on Saturday. The Pirates go into the game as a touchdown underdog. ... More from Brian Bailey...



Pirates check out Tuscaloosa today

Al Myatt

East Carolina's football team travels today in advance of the Birmingham Bowl on Saturday against Florida. Classes are out so the Pirates' focus narrows to bowl-related matters. ... More from Al Myatt...



Whisnant leads Pirates past UNCG

GREENVILLE East Carolina built an early lead and defeated UNC-Greensboro 71-50 in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum on Sunday afternoon. Terry Whisnant scored 14 of his 17 points in the first half as the Pirates led 45-26 at intermission. ... More...



New verbal commitment: Charlotte Olympic DE Emmanuel Olenga ... Thumbnail sketch...

ECU's recruiting class of 2015...



Pirates reach back for the future

East Carolina has landed one of North Carolina's top college prospects, albeit a 2012 model. The Pirates went back in the stacks to snare James Summers, who quarterbacked Greensboro's Page High School to the state 4-AA title in 2011 as a senior. ... More from Sammy Batten...

Thumbnails: ECU's recruiting class of 2015...


By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Post-game audio: Ruffin McNeill, Brandon Williams, Justin Hardy & Shane Carden...

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BIRMINGHAM, AL East Carolina's lack of production in the red zone ultimately led to a 28-20 loss to Florida in the Birmingham Bowl at historic Legion Field on Saturday.

The final opportunity for the Pirates (8-5) came on a drive that started with 3:28 left in the game from the ECU 42 with the Pirates needing a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie the score.

Quarterback Shane Carden completed passes to Justin Hardy and Cam Worthy for a first down before Hardy had a 24-yard catch to the Florida 23.

Isaiah Jones had an 8-yard reception to the UF 15. Jones had the ball knocked loose but Jimmy Williams recovered for the Pirates at the 5-yard line for first and goal.

After an incomplete pass on first down, Florida sophomore defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III picked off a throw intended for Justin Hardy with 1:20 to go.

That was the last snap of the day for ECU, which wound up with a 32-15 lead in first downs and outgained the Gators, 536-339, in total yardage. The Pirates ran 101 plays to 71 for the Gators.

"They were blitzing a lot down there," Carden said of the final turnover. "We were hitting the inside verticals when they blitzed. The corner came off the outside receiver. I didn't have a lot of room to the outside and their defensive back made a good play."

Hardy pushed his Football Bowl Subdivision career receptions record to 387 as he made 11 grabs for 160 yards and a score.

Hargreaves' dad was an ECU assistant in the Skip Holtz coaching era. Hargreaves recruited the West Craven area when the Pirates passed on Hardy for a scholarship. Hardy is a product of West Craven High School.

Hardy earned the Burlsworth Award recently as the top walk-on in the FBS.

The older Hargreaves has most recently been coaching linebackers at Houston.

It was the third interception of the season for the younger Hargreaves, a sophomore.

Some things are so coincidental that they are more than coincidences as ECU coach Ruffin McNeill says.

Hargreaves coached at ECU from 2007 to 2009, part of a staff that guided the Pirates to Conference USA championships the last two seasons.

Holtz left for South Florida after the 2009 campaign and Hargreaves joined him there.

Holtz guided ECU in the Papajohn' Bowl in 2006, a 24-7 loss to South Florida. That event has transitioned into the Birmingham Bowl, which drew 30,083 for the ninth variation at Legion Field.

The Pirates trailed 21-7 after 30 minutes but the second half had a promising start with Josh Hawkins intercepting for ECU at his own 30. On the next play, Hardy took a pass 66 yards to the Florida 4-yard line. On third down Carden connected with Worthy for a 4-yard touchdown to cut Florida's lead to 21-14 with 12:51 left in the third quarter on Warren Harvey's conversion kick.

Florida extended the margin to 28-14 as a third-and-six pass from Treon Harris to Ahmad Fulwood went for an 86-yard score down the west sideline with 11:20 left in the third quarter. Harvey's 24-yard field goal closed the gap to 28-17 on a series that started with Detric Allen's fumble recovery at midfield. Carden had completions of 13 yards to Worthy to get the drive started and had a 19-yard gainer to Hardy.

Brandon Williams stopped Harris for a 4-yard loss before Harris threw incomplete on third down on the ensuing series.

A sack by Maurice Falls and Brandon Williams forced Florida into a punting situation as the third quarter ended.

On the ensuing series, ECU moved from its 39 to the Florida 7 before settling for a 24-yard Harvey field goal with 11:55 to play. That cut Florida's lead to 28-20.

Seniors Hardy, Carden, Harvey, Williams and Chrishon Rose served as captains for the Pirates. East Carolina received the opening kickoff, which appeared to be a good omen, because the Pirates lost games in which they kicked off against South Carolina and Central Florida.

Chris Hairston took a handoff from Carden on the first play from scrimmage. Hairston wore No. 25 in honor of Pirate senior running back Breon Allen, who was out with a knee injury sustained in practice during bowl week.

The Pirates went 78 yards on their second possession to score on a 3-yard pass from Carden to Hardy with 7:06 left in the first quarter. A 26-yard completion to Worthy to the Florida 23 was the big gainer on the series.

Worthy finished with eight catches for 130 yards.

Carden completed 34 of 66 attempts for 427 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

ECU went for a fourth down on its first possession, needing two yards at the Florida 43. Hairston was hemmed up a yard short but it showed the Pirates were willing to think boldly.

Carden's pass over the middle with a corner blitz coming from his right on third-and-10 from the ECU 22 was picked off by Brian Poole and returned 29 yards for a touchdown with 3:09 left in the first quarter as the Gators pulled even at 7.

Gains of 48 and 15 yards by Florida's Adam Lane Jr. led to his score from two yards out as Florida took a 14-7 lead as the second quarter opened. A 13-yard scoring pass from Treon Harris to Brandon Powell pushed the margin to 21-7. Harris had a 24-yard run with the Gators facing third-and-17 at their 13 to spark the drive. A pass interference penalty kept the series going on a third-and-8 at the Florida 38.

Lane ran 16 times for 109 yards and was named game MVP. Lane made it to the end zone but didn't make it to the bathroom at one point and left the field for a change of pants.

The Pirates drove from their 31 to the Florida 1 before backup quarterback Kurt Benkert was ruled to have lost a fumble and the Gators took over at their own 1. Replays appeared to show that Benkert was down before the ball came out but the fumble call by the Mountain West Conference officiating crew stood after review.

McNeill said the package with Benkert was part of the game plan.

It was a hard hitting game. Leading Gators tackler Antonio Morrison and ECU safety Terrell Richardson were among those knocked out of action. The Pirates had lost nose tackle Terry Williams and safety Dominique Lennon at the close of the semester.

Jeff Driskel came in at quarterback for the Gators and the Pirates got a three and out. It was reported following the game that Driskel had been released from his scholarship by new Florida coach Jim McElwain. A graduated junior, Driskel may wind up at Duke where he could play next season.

ECU moved from its 45 to the Florida 17 with a boost from a 24-yard run by Anthony Scott in the final two minutes of the first half. A sack moved the Pirates back to the Gators 25 for a third and 15. Carden threw incomplete to Hardy on the right side of the end zone before Harvey missed a 42-yard field goal attempt with 42 seconds left in the half.

Turnovers obviously hurt during a first half in which ECU led 18-9 in first downs and 282-159 in total yardage.

ECU got two field goals and two touchdowns out of seven trips to the red zone.

The ECU defense limited the Gators to 45 yards in the fourth quarter. Driskel finished the game at quarterback for the Gators.

"Better execution," said Williams, who led the Pirates with 10 tackles, including three for loss, of the defensive unit's improved play during the course of a misty day.

"Better gap integrity," said McNeill, who looked at the big picture in his postgame remarks as he was flanked by seniors Williams, Hardy and Carden.

"Look at the body of work," McNeill said. " ... They leave a great legacy. They leave a blue print and a mold I will use as long as East Carolina keeps me here."

The Pirates won 18 games over the last two years, which ties for the most in school history.

ECU will take on the Gators again in 2015, on Sept. 12, in Gainesville. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin was the interim coach for the bowl game. New Florida coach Jim McElwain made an appearance in the press box before kickoff Saturday.

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01/04/2015 04:05:08 AM