ECU not bothered by Terp’s talk|Pirates happy to be a part of the Military Bowl

Published 11:58 am Tuesday, December 14, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES,, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — The University of Maryland may not be that excited to play in the Military Bowl, but its opponents couldn’t be happier.
Shortly after the bowl pairings were announced a few weeks ago Maryland athletic director Ken Anderson said he was “disappointed” with the bowl process after his Terrapins (8-4) finished tied for third place in the ACC, but where not extended invitations to more prestigious bowl games.
On Monday, East Carolina’s first-year coach Ruffin McNeill said he was honored to be headed to Washington, D.C., on Dec. 29 to coach his first bowl game as a Pirates’ skipper at RFK Stadium.
“We are very excited to go to the Military Bowl,” McNeill said. “We are very excited to be coaching right now. A lot of coaches are strictly recruiting, a lot of players are not worried about playing another game, but here in East Carolina our coaches are preparing for a bowl game and our players are exciting for preparing for a bowl game.”
McNeill said Maryland’s attitude toward the bowl game is nothing that his team or staff should be concerned about.
“I know they are disappointed, they thought they could have gone to a better bowl or a higher bowl setting in their league but that’s not our problem. That’s what they’re mentioning,” McNeill said.
McNeill, who has coached at the college level for over 20 years, said that he is thrilled to be a part of the postseason.
“This is my 14th bowl game … And to be chosen to play in any postseason bowl game is an honor,” McNeill said. “When you notice it is when you are not chosen for one … I think attitude is the whole key and from Second One our players were excited.”
McNeill’s chief concern is preparing his team to try and win its first bowl game since the 2007 season, when the Pirates topped Boise State 41-38 in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
“We know we have a tough contest with Maryland, they are a really good football team,” McNeill said. “We know we have to be at a top level to play them. The only thing we can worry about is preparation; how we prepare, how we work.”
East Carolina played its last game on Nov. 26 when it fell in 45-38 in overtime to SMU in the regular season finale, which means McNeill and his staff have over a month to prepare for Maryland.
Some coaches, when faced with an abundance of time to prepare for a game, can be tempted to over-examine their team’s X’s and O’s, but McNeill said that is not an issue for him.
“If it was my first bowl game you probably could (tend to over-coach), but being that it’s like my 14th … There’s a fine line where you have to keep guys fresh and at the same time keep them sharp,” McNeill said. “The bowl practices are an accumulation of success that we’ve had in bowls and some tough times that we have had in bowls … (Offensive coordinator) Lincoln (Riley), (staff assistant) Landon (Hoefer) and (defensive coordinator) Brian (Mitchell) keep all of our bowl preparation from where we have been, and there is a happy medium there.”
Other news that came out from Monday’s press conference was the announcement that backup quarterback-turned-receiver Josh Jordan will be transferring and that right tackle Grant Harner will not be starting against Maryland.
“Josh Jordan came and talked to us and he will be transferring,” McNeill said. “He wants to play quarterback and he will be transferring to McNeese State. It was a tough decision for him. He met with Lincoln and (wide receivers coach) Donnie (Kirkpatrick) and he won’t be here. He made a decision, we hate to see him go because we didn’t want to lose him, but he had a great point: He said coach I want to play and I know there are some great guys in front of me.”
As for the freshman Harner, who started every game this season except for the finale against SMU, McNeill said he is just trying to put the most qualified players out on the field.
“The biggest thing is always trying to work and put the best group out there,” McNeill said. “Lincoln and those guys got a plan and we are just trying to put the best unit out there to do the job. That unit has been doing a great job offensively.”
The benching of Harner means that right guard D.J. Scott slides over to right tackle, while left guard Cory Dowless moves over to right guard, opening the door for senior Doug Polochak to play left guard, as was the unit’s alignment versus SMU.