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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, December 14, 2010

By Brian Bailey

Ruff ready for bowl trip

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.



Replay Monday night's Brian Bailey Show with guests BRIAN MITCHELL, DONNIE KIRKPATRICK, CLAY McGUIRE and LINCOLN RILEY. Eastern North Carolina's longest running sports radio call-in show airs each Monday night at 7 p.m. on Pirate Radio 1250 and 930.
Replay Show
Pirate Radio Home Page


Ruff ready for bowl trip
Audio: Coach Ruffin McNeill Press Conference
Playoff doesn't solve primary problem
Conference USA Bowl Matchups and Payouts
The bottom line is the bottom line
Late Monarch surge sinks Pirates
Ruff relishes Christmas with the Pirates
ECU can't pursue 'Little East'
Final 2010 BCS Rankings
Harris, AP, Coaches Polls
Conference USA Bowl Schedule & TV Listings
Pirates streak away from Broncos
Audio: Military Bowl President Steve Beck
Audio: Coach Ruff Military Bowl Press Conference

It’s been a year to remember for Ruffin McNeill, but the East Carolina head football coach hopes he'll have one more thing to remember for this 2010 season.

That’s a win over Maryland in the upcoming Military Bowl in Washington, DC.

“The season was a special one,” said McNeill at Monday’s bowl press conference at East Carolina.” “It was our first as a transitional staff. We brought in new philosophies offensively, defensively and on special teams. We also brought in personal philosophies and pillars for the program.

"Without the team concept and one-for-all mentality that we had in our office, none of it would have been possible.”

McNeill was in a very reflective mood on Monday. Last week I wrote that McNeill was really looking forward to spending the Christmas holiday with his entire football family. He was in a particular holiday frame of mind on Monday.

“I can’t wait,” McNeill said. “It will really mean a lot to have my family and my football family all together. It will really be special.”

McNeill’s not the only one looking forward to the bowl trip.

“We’re going to D.C. to win the game,” said ECU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. “That’s the only thing we are thinking about.”

One thing is certain. The entire coaching staff under Ruffin McNeill is sold on the idea that this is a “football family.”

“We choose to run the program as a family and we will run it as a family,” said McNeill. “I think that’s the way that works best with us. The kids have adapted to that. The love there is present. Not just among the kids, but from top to bottom in the office. Our administrators have done a great job giving us what we need in order to be successful.”

This 6-6 season has featured the highs of a win over North Carolina State in overtime, and the lows of giving up points by the bucket load to Navy and Rice.

ECU defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell has faced the most heat this season. Mitchell says he knows this Pirate team can play better on defense, and he hopes the fans will see that in the upcoming bowl game.

“It’s been frustrating at times,” said Mitchell. “We’d never make an excuse, but there have been some key injuries. We’ve struggled with depth. Hopefully we can get healthier before the bowl game and that will show against Maryland.”

As far as the matchup with the Terps goes, I still maintain that state of mind will go a long way in determining a winner in this game.

“Attitude is the whole key,” said McNeill. “From the first second, our players were excited. We knew we had obtained bowl eligibility, but to be chosen for a bowl game is something our kids were excited about. If you could have seen them when we told them we had been chosen for the Military Bowl, they were so pumped.

"The fact the game is in D.C., only four hours from here, and a drivable trip was exciting. You could see the smiles on their faces, especially the seniors, but the young guys, too.”

Maryland goes into the game as a 7-point favorite. McNeill likes to think his East Carolina program is an honorary Atlantic Coast Conference member, getting set to play its fourth opponent from the ACC this season.

The Pirates lost badly to Virginia Tech and North Carolina. Yet, a closer look reveals that East Carolina had the lead and was dominating both the Hokies and the Heels in the first halves of those games.

The Pirates do have that overtime win over N.C. State. A win in the Military Bowl would bring the Pirates to .500 against the ACC this season.

The difference between finishing 6-7 or 7-6 is unbelievable. That’s now the goal for this Pirate football team. A winning season is the carrot that dangles.

McNeill agrees.

“Now we have finished the regular season,” he said. "We finished at 6-6. We wanted to finish stronger. One of the things we talked about as a team was ending strong. I know as a staff and team we wanted to, but had some mishaps. When you look at the entire body of work, I was very pleased with how we fought.

"We’ll be fine, trust me on that.”

The Pirate Nation will be outnumbered in RFK Stadium. The team, though, seems to have something to prove, which should provide dividends when this one is done.


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12/16/2010 01:56 AM


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