A closer look at East Carolina’s win over Ohio on Monday in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Fla., which snapped a four-game postseason losing streak for the program.
It was over when: In a back-and-forth battle, the Pirates were able to make the plays that mattered most down the stretch and iced the game with an interception by Damon Magazu as the clock ticked under 7 minutes in the fourth quarter. The ensuing drive didn’t produce any points for East Carolina, but coming on the heels of a touchdown on a trick play, the turnover kept the momentum squarely in its favor down the stretch and killed off a bit of time to give coach Ruffin McNeill his first bowl victory.
Game ball goes to: The Pirates racked up yardage through the air and wound up with a pair of passing touchdowns, but they clearly weren’t playing quite up to their high standards and even looked a bit shaky at times. But the rushing attack more than made up for it as Vintavious Cooper had his way with the Bobcats, using some shifty moves and incredible vision to set a career high with 198 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat of the game: A couple of fourth-down conversions in the red zone came up short, but that was about the only black mark for the Pirates as they moved the ball with relative ease and dominated time of possession. In all, East Carolina put up 568 yards of offense and held the football for more than 33 minutes in what ended up being a comfortable victory.
Best call: The passing game wasn’t quite as sharp as usual, but the Pirates jump-started it down the stretch by flipping the script and throwing it to Shane Carden. A double-pass from Cam Worthy to the junior quarterback midway through the fourth quarter helped seal the deal. Carden came down with the 14-yard toss with two Ohio defensive backs around him -- and then celebrated by pretending he couldn’t shake the football free from his grip.
What it means: The Pirates showed signs of progress a year ago in McNeill’s third season with eight wins, but ending a four-bowl losing streak for the program and clinching a 10-win campaign made it obvious his team is trending in the right direction as it prepares for a move to the American Athletic Conference.
To watch the trophy presentation of the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg, click here.