NCF Nation: 2010 Military Bowl

Here’s a quick recap of Maryland’s 51-20 win over East Carolina in the Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman:

How the game was won: East Carolina did what it could to help the Terps with four turnovers and 15 penalties, but Maryland’s defense was a major factor in the game, and the Terps found their running game. ECU was averaging 38 points per game under the direction of quarterback Dominique Davis, but the Pirates couldn’t get into the end zone enough. Nor could they keep Maryland out of theirs.

Turning point: On East Carolina’s first possession of the third quarter, Davis threw an interception to David Mackall, who returned it 34 yards to the Pirates’ 1-yard line. D.J. Adams scored one play later to give Maryland a 23-3 lead and really distance the Terps.

Stat of the game: East Carolina finished with 15 penalties for 123 yards. The Pirates only had six more first downs than they did penalties.

Player of the game: Running back Da'Rel Scott. Maryland entered the game with the No. 94 rushing offense in the country, but Scott got it going against the Pirates. He finished with 201 yards and his 61-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter put the Terps ahead 37-13. He averaged 15.5 yards per carry and added a 91-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Unsung hero of the game: Defensive coordinator Don Brown. He had this team well-prepared for the nation’s No. 12 scoring offense. ECU was held to just 32 rushing yards and was successful on only 7 of 19 third downs.

What it means: The Ralph Friedgen era is officially over at Maryland, and it has ended on a positive note. Friedgen, the ACC’s Coach of the Year, will end his career at Maryland with a 9-4 record this season. It’s the 14th time in school history that Maryland has won that many games.

Record performance: Friedgen will leave as the school’s winningest coach in bowl games with a 5-2 record. Friedgen won a school-record three straight bowl games from 2003-06. Prior to Friedgen's arrival, Maryland made only one postseason appearance in the previous 15 years.

Maryland beat East Carolina 51-20 in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman on Wednesday. Here is a quick instant analysis:

How the game was won: The best part about East Carolina this season has been its offense. The Pirates came into the game averaging 445 yards and 38 points a game, but were completely stymied against Maryland. The Terrapins blitzed and put major pressure on quarterback Dominique Davis, keeping him completely off balance. There were several instances of miscommunication with his receivers, and Davis threw two ugly interceptions. East Carolina had four total turnovers and racked up 15 penalties for 123 yards -- enough to thwart any team's chances at a victory. All-purpose player Dwayne Harris was also a non-factor. The offense was held 100 yards below its average and scored fewer than 21 points for just the second time this season. Meanwhile, the defense was its usual self-destructive self, missing tackles and allowing two long touchdown runs. The Pirates closed the season having given up 40-plus points in six straight games -- five of them losses. In all, they gave up 40-plus points in 10 games this season.

Turning point: Maryland led 16-3 at halftime, but East Carolina has been able to put up some points this season so going down two scores did not seem too insurmountable. But Davis threw an interception to open the third quarter. Maryland took advantage when D.J. Adams scored on a 1-yard touchdown run on the next play to go up 23-3, essentially putting the game out of reach.

Stat of the game: 3. Number of points East Carolina scored in the first half, a season low.

Player of the game: Maryland running back Da'Rel Scott. The senior scored on two long touchdown runs in the second half, one for 61 yards and the other for 91 yards. He finished with with 201 yards rushing.

Second guessing: Was it really necessary for Maryland to keep throwing the ball down field up 44-13 in the fourth quarter? From the East Carolina perspective, the Pirates seemed unprepared and out of sorts, especially for the Maryland blitz. If East Carolina had done a better job on protection, perhaps the game could have been closer.

What it means: East Carolina (6-7) finished the season with a losing record for the first time since 2005. The Pirates lose Harris and several other senior starters for next season, but Davis returns along with Lance Lewis. But the big question has got to be how first-year coach Ruffin McNeill plans to fix his defense, ranked last in the nation. The unit was definitely young, so it should have more experience, but the Pirates cannot afford to have another defensive performance like this one in 2011.
He is fearless. He is a team player. He always does what is asked. So it is easy to see why Dwayne Harris has been such a valuable member of the East Carolina football team.

Of course, Harris never thought he would be making headlines as a receiver and all-purpose player when he was starring in high school. Back then, he played quarterback and figured he would be a quarterback with the Pirates.

But after his redshirt season, the coaching staff moved him first to running back and then to wide receiver.

[+] EnlargeDwayne Harris
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackDwayne Harris hopes to finish his college career on a high note.
“They knew I was an athlete, and when I was on the scout team going against our first-team defense, they lined up me everywhere,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I never thought I’d be the type of receiver I am now. But it’s a blessing that I can use my God-given talents in so many different ways.”

Indeed, those talents and his versatility led him to an outstanding season. Harris was selected the Most Valuable Player of Conference USA, the first non-quarterback to win the award. He also made the first team as a receiver and return specialist.

College football fans will have their last chance to see him play for East Carolina on Wednesday, when he leads his Pirates against Maryland in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman. A Senior Bowl date and NFL future await. But first, Harris would love nothing more than to go out with a win.

It has been an up-and-down season for East Carolina, but the offense has thrived in the spread system under new coach Ruffin McNeill. That expanded opportunities for Harris, who set the single-season school records for receptions (93) and receiving yards (1,055) this season.

He will leave school as the career leader in receptions (260) and receiving yards (2,933) and needs two touchdowns to break the career record for receiving touchdowns, which Larry Shannon set from 1994-97 with 21.

As we mentioned earlier, Harris does more than catch. He also returns kicks, and occasionally runs and passes. Harris ranks fifth in the nation in all-purpose yards with an average of 171 a game.

When asked what makes him so good, Harris said, “I’m a guy who never quits. I’m never going to give up. A lot of coaches feel they can’t stop me, so I know they can’t stop me. It’s a good feeling for me.”

Harris hates calling for a fair catch on punts. Since many teams kick away from him, he wants to take advantage of all the opportunities he gets.

“I’m never scared. I’ve taken brutal hits and gotten up,” Harris said. “I’m a guy who’s always going to take chances on punt returns and kickoff returns, and that makes me dangerous.”

It also makes him an NFL prospect. At 6-foot and 205 pounds, he has good size, and his versatility is obviously a plus. He is projected to be a mid-round pick.

But he before he thinks about his future, Harris has one game left to play.

“I’m just going to try my all and take care of my business and everything else will fall into place,” he said.
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.