NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
By Bethany Bradsher
Ruff & Co. place premium on
Coach Ruffin McNeill
(ECU SID images)
All rights reserved.
Carolina football players have experienced the preparations, travel and
festivities of a bowl trip before, but few of them have been part of a bowl
So while it
might be a cliché, their assurance that “This is a business trip, not a
vacation” carries more weight than normal as head coach Ruffin McNeill and
his staff make sure that bringing home a championship trophy from the
Military Bowl takes mental priority over visits to the Smithsonian or the
team Christmas banquet.
has been preaching it to us, we’re going to this bowl to win the game,” said
junior quarterback Dominique Davis. “We’re just going to take care of
business and we’ll have fun later.”
looking for a motivator with credibility, McNeill brings the right resume to
the task. When he leaves for the nation’s capital next Friday, he will be
departing for his 12th straight bowl game, and his Texas Tech
teams were the victors in six out of his last eight bowls.
The world of
bowls has been so good to McNeill, in fact, that said he would only favor a
college football playoff that leaves the bowl system intact.
to Washington, DC, for one thing, and that’s to win the football game,” he
said. “We’ll enjoy the required bowl festivities and required events, but we
are preparing, and our whole thought process is going to win the football
game. End of discussion.”
To that end,
the Pirates watched film of Maryland (8-4, 5-3) on Sunday and have been
gradually introducing elements of the Terrapin system in practice this week.
With a multiple offense and a 4-3 defense, Maryland looks more like N.C.
State than any other team the Pirates (6-6, 5-3) have faced this season,
McNeill said. And even though ECU and Maryland have never met on the
football field before, the Terrapins are the fourth ACC team the Pirates
have faced this year.
“I talked to
Coach (Ralph) Friedgen about us being honorary members of the ACC,” McNeill
challenges that Maryland will present to ECU on Dec. 29 include freshman
quarterback Danny O’Brien, a Kernersville native who is effectively running
an offense that averages 30.7 points a game and a defense that is allowing
only 132 rushing yards per game and has sacked opposing quarterbacks 27
times this season.
to face a lot of man defense with them, and we usually don’t see a lot of
man,” said senior wide receiver Dwayne Harris, a first-team All-Conference
USA selection and the recipient of the conference’s most valuable player
ECU's practice sessions will get more Maryland-oriented from here on out,
one of the great benefits of a bowl invitation is the extra time coaches are
given to drill in fundamentals and to break in young players who will assume
larger roles next season. Players with injuries take advantage of the
several weeks between the regular season and bowl to heal up.
else is working as hard as they can, both because they want to beat Maryland
and because this month is like savings in the bank for McNeill’s second
campaign as Pirate head coach.
practices, even in the bitter cold after the sun has gone down, are a relief
for players like Josh Smith, a senior defensive tackle who said that he’s
not sure how he would fill his time without his regular football routine.
you’ve got four weeks again to kind of have a whole new season,” Smith said.
“I don’t know what I’d be doing if it wasn’t for this. It’s really boring
not to have practice every day. It gives you something to do.”
like Smith and Harris, the bowl represents something else, too — a chance to
create one more indelible memory with their Pirate football teammates.
According to Harris, one of the chief differences between the postseason and
the bowl preparation period is the quality of the relationships that have
been developed by the time December rolls around.
great feeling,” Harris said. “I’ve got one more game left, to play with
these guys, who I love to death. This game means a lot to me, just get one
more game in with these guys and the coaches. It’s big.”
one of the few on East Carolina's current roster who played in the Pirates'
last bowl win,
a 41-38 upset of Boise State in the
2007 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
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12/16/2010 01:56 AM