Pirates earn bid to Beef O'Brady's Bowl

By Nathan Summers

Greenville Daily Reflector

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GREENVILLE – East Carolina will have a chance to snap a four-game bowl losing streak when the Pirates lock horns with Ohio on Dec. 23 at the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla.

ECU announced it had accepted an invitation to the 2 p.m. game at Tropicana Field following its return to the practice field Sunday, meaning the team wasn’t sure of its destination until afterward.

“It’s very important. Bowl games and postseason games are very big in this business,” ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said following Sunday’s practice, just minutes before the bowl destination was announced to the team. “It’s very important for our players and staff and families but also for our fans and administration.

“We travel well, and (the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl) is getting a jewel with East Carolina and what we bring to the table.”

ECU rattled off five consecutive wins before being upended at Marshall on the final day of the regular season.

The Bobcats, meanwhile, snapped a three-game skid with a victory against Massachusetts to close out their regular season. Ohio is making is fifth straight bowl appearance.

It will be the Pirates’ first-ever appearance in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl but their seventh bowl game in the past eight seasons.

The Pirates last won a bowl when they upset Boise State at the 2007 Hawaii Bowl.

They lost to Kentucky and Arkansas, respectively, in consecutive visits to the Liberty Bowl in ’08 and ’09, lost to Maryland at the ’10 Military Bowl and fell to Louisiana-Lafayette at last year’s New Orleans Bowl.

“Preparing for an opponent is big, but right now, an opponent is not the most important thing for us,” McNeill said.

The Pirates will resume daily on-field workouts until they travel to St. Petersburg.

McNeill likened the Pirates’ bowl practice routine to that of an NFL team’s in-season schedule, with veterans seeing their primary repetitions early in the session before giving way to the reserves.

“It’ll be schematically focused on us,” McNeill said, adding that the team’s young players will get the equivalent of five spring practice sessions this week. “We’ll take full advantage of this time.”

The fourth-year head coach said he and the ECU staff will also spend a large part of the week recruiting, and said the Pirates will embrace the chance to play another game in Florida to extend that effort.

“Playing in Florida will be great because we have players here that are from there and recruits that we are attacking right now and trying to get here,” McNeill said.

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