Dec. 23, 2013
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. -- It was a good start and an even better finish for Vintavious Cooper, Shane Carden and East Carolina as the Pirates scored the game’s final 20 points in the fourth quarter to defeat Ohio, 37-20, in the sixth annual Beef O’Brady’s Bowl at Tropicana Field Monday afternoon.
East Carolina (10-3, 6-2 C-USA) jumped to a 14-0 first quarter lead but the Pirates found themselves trailing 20-17 early in the fourth quarter following a Josiah Yazdani 28-yard field goal that temporarily put Ohio (7-6, 4-4 MAC) in the lead for the first time.
Ohio appeared to be in position to extend the lead when the Bobcats recovered an onside kick at their own 48 following the Yazdani field goal. But the ECU defense stiffened and made its biggest stop of the game, forcing Yazdani to attempt and miss a 45-yard field goal.
Cooper, who was named ECU’s MVP, rushed for a career-best and Bowl record 198 yards on 25 carries. He turned the game back in ECU’s favor following the missed field goal. The senior back capped a 5-play 71-yard drive with a 31-yard touchdown scamper, his first of two TD runs on the day.
“In the first half the offensive line played way beyond what was expected," said Cooper. "But for us, that’s the standard that we hold for our team. We hold ourselves to a high standard, and we understand definitely what it takes to make plays on any given Saturday or like today, any given Monday.”
Ohio went three-and-out on its next possession and the Pirates quickly added to their four-point lead. Carden, who set Beef 'O’ Brady’s Bowl passing records for completions and attempts (29-45, 273 yards), added to his big statistical day by catching a 14-yard touchdown pass on a flea flicker pass from wide receiver Cam Worthy with 7:29 left in the game.
ECU finished the scoring just past the two-minute mark when Cooper completed his record-setting afternoon with a 22-yard run to push the lead to 37-20.
The Pirates, who became the third straight Conference USA team to win this six-year event in St. Petersburg (Marshall in 2011 and UCF in 2012), took control of the game in the opening minutes and appeared to be on their way to a decisive victory.
ECU jumped ahead less than five minutes into the game on a 5-yard scoring toss from Carden to Worthy. The 55-yard drive was set up by the game’s first turnover, an interception by Pirates’ safety Michael Dobson.
The Pirates pushed the early lead to 14-0 when Breon Allen finished off an 11-play, 76-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 27 seconds left in the opening period.
Ohio answered quickly after ECU’s second score with a 4-play, 74-yard scoring drive that finished with a 17-yard scoring pass from Tyler Tettleton to Daz’ Patterson. The key play of the drive was a 26-yard pass off a double reverse from Tettleton to Patterson. That play gained the Bobcats an additional 15 yards when a roughing the passer penalty was tacked on and put Ohio at the 17-yard line, from where Tettleton and Patterson again hooked up for the Bobcats’ first score of the game.
ECU’s next drive stalled at the Ohio 39 and after a Pirates punt, Ohio tied the game on a Beef O’Brady’s Bowl record 80-yard touchdown pass from Derrius Vick to wide receiver Donte Foster, Ohio’s Most Valuable Player. That play helped bolster Foster’s numbers as he finished the game with six catches for a bowl-record 160 yards and the one score.
ECU regained the lead with 1:01 left in the half on a 41-yard field goal by Warren Harvey.
The Pirates had opportunities to widen their lead in the opening half but were stopped on downs twice inside the Bobcats’ 15-yard line. A 7-play, 62-yard possession was halted on fourth down at the Ohio 15 in the first quarter, and the Pirates again were stymied in the red zone at the Ohio 14 after an 11-play, 61-yard drive late in the second period.
“First, I want to thank the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl for what a great experience and the city of St. Petersburg," said ECU Head Coach Ruffin McNeill. "They treated our team first class. I have been blessed to have been to a lot of bowl games and this is one of the top venues.”