East Carolina has made five straight bowl appearances but has only one win to show for its previous four. The Pirates face a big challenge against Maryland on Wednesday in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, especially considering they ended the season with losses in four of their last five games because their defense fell apart. Still, making a bowl game is a good accomplishment for first-year coach Ruffin McNeill, who inherited a team that returned just eight starters.
WHO TO WATCH: East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis. He came in as a junior college transfer after playing his first season at Boston College and is one of the biggest reasons East Carolina is in a bowl game. His Hail Mary touchdown pass with no time left in the season-opener against Tulsa essentially put the Pirates in this game. He already has established new school single-season records for attempts (552), completions (358), passing yardage (3,699) and touchdown passes, 36) and ranks No. 1 in the country in completions per game and points responsible for per game; fourth in passing yards per game and total passing yards (3,699); and sixth in total offense per game. Davis has thrived in the spread option, even though he had to sit out spring practice.
WHAT TO WATCH: East Carolina's defense. OK, there has not been much to watch this season with a defense that has been a sieve, ranking last in the nation in total D. East Carolina has had to outscore people to win all season long, but with extra time to prepare, perhaps the Pirates will be up to the task. This is the same Pirates team that beat NC State this season and held the Wolfpack to 27 points. One of the biggest matchups to watch is Maryland receiver Torrey Smith against Pirates cornerbacks Emanuel Davis and Travis Simmons.
WHY TO WATCH: The chances for an offensive back-and-forth are great, and who doesn’t like a little bit of an offensive showdown every once in a while? The Pirates have had some heart-stopping wins this year – the Hail Mary victory against Tulsa and the overtime win against NC State, and a one-point win against Southern Miss. You can’t accuse the Pirates of being boring to watch.
PREDICTION: Maryland 45, East Carolina 40. The Pirates have given up 54.8 points per game in their past five and are going to have a tough time slowing the Terrapins down. Expect an inspired Maryland team to be playing for coach Ralph Friedgen, in his final game at Maryland.