ECU wears down Ohio in Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl
Ten victories and East Carolina’s first bowl win in six
The Pirates, who finished second in Conference USA’s Eastern
Division, had plenty to celebrate after dominating the fourth
quarter to earn a 37-20 victory over Ohio in the Beef `O’ Brady’s
”It was a great season, we had a lot of goals and although we
fell short of a goal to be conference champion we made a lot of
other things happen along the way,” coach Ruffin McNeill said.
”Our young men learned that having a great attitude and doing
things the right way and putting teamwork first allowed us to
accomplish great things.”
Vintavious Cooper took over Monday’s game with a performance
reminiscent of a former East Carolina running back.
Just don’t bring up that comparison to Cooper, who rushed for a
career-best 198 yards and scored two touchdowns. In addition to
breaking the Beef `O’ Brady’s Bowl record for yards rushing, the
senior became the first East Carolina player to win a MVP award in
a bowl game since Tennessee Titans star Chris Johnson ran for 223
yards against Boise State in the 2007 Hawaii Bowl.
”It’s a great accomplishment and I have to really give it up to
the guys up front and all the work they did. When I found out I was
close to 100 yards after the first quarter I told them and they got
excited about it,” Cooper said.
”I would never compare myself to Chris Johnson because I really
admire CJ and I look up to CJ. He’s done so much for me. I’m just
happy my name is next to his in any way.”
The Pirates (10-3) grabbed the lead for good on the first of
Cooper’s two touchdowns runs in the fourth quarter, a 31-yard burst
with just under 10 minutes remaining.
East Carolina’s Shane Carden threw for 273 yards and one TD and
also scored on a pass reception.
”All season we’ve been about playing big in the fourth quarter
and this was going to be a game that we needed to grind out and
fight to win because Ohio is a real tough team that’s well
coached,” Carden said.
Cam Worthy caught an early 5-yard scoring pass from Carden, and
then took a lateral and threw 14 yards to Carden for a
fourth-quarter TD that made it 31-20. Cooper put it well out of
reach, finding an opening off left tackle and racing 22 yards for
his second TD.
Tyler Tettleton and Derrius Vick threw scoring passes for Ohio
(7-6), which overcame an early two-touchdown deficit to lead 20-17
before Cooper put East Carolina back in front before an announced
crowd of 20,053 at Tropicana Field.
Breon Allen also scored on a 2-yard run for East Carolina, which
won six of its final seven games to finish with the second-most
victories in school history.
Carden set the school record for single-season yards passing
with a 13-yard throw to Isaiah Jones on the drive ended with
Allen’s TD, making it 14-0. He completed 29 of 45 passes while
boosting his season total to 4,139 yards, breaking Dominique Davis’
record total for the Pirates.
Cooper ran for 90 yards in the opening quarter alone, becoming
the third running back in East Carolina history to rush for 1,000
yards in consecutive seasons.
Justin Hardy, meanwhile, had eight receptions for 59 yards,
setting a school record for yards receiving in a season. He
finished with nine catches, giving him 114 receptions for 1,284
Ohio battled back after a slow start. Tettleton and Vick each
threw a touchdown pass in a five-minute span to make it 14-all
early in the second quarter.
Tettleton got the Bobcats going with a 26-yard completion to
Daz’ Patterson on a flea flicker, and then found Patterson for a
17-yard TD on the following play. Vick and Donte Foster combined
for an 80-yard score on Ohio’s next offensive play for the longest
scoring pass in Beef `O’ Brady’s Bowl history.
”They’re a very, very physical football team on the defensive
side, and very strong. Generally you’re not going to traditionally
line up and just run the ball right at them and feel like you’re
going to be successful,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. ”We had to
come up with ways that we felt we could continue to make plays and
then hopefully have our fair share of big plays.”
Foster finished with six catches for 160 yards, earning most
valuable player honors for Ohio. Tettleton was 21 of 40 for 228
yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
”A win would have made this a whole lot better,” Foster said.
”It would have made it very tremendous, but I felt like our guys
played their hearts out.”