Pirates prep for bowl game

Published 7:04 pm Monday, December 3, 2012

East Carolina RB Reggie Bullock (center) reacts during the team’s 65-59 double overtime win over Marshall on Nov. 23. The Pirates have begun preparation for the R+L Carriers Bowl on Dec. 22 where they will face the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. (ECU Photo/Rob Goldberg)

GREENVILLE — Days after East Carolina accepted its invitation to the Big East Conference the school got more good news as learned its bowl destination and opponent over the weekend.
After missing out on the postseason in 2011, the Pirates (8-4, 7-1 C-USA) will make their return on Dec. 22 when they play the University of Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4, 6-2 Athletic Sun) in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
“We’re excited about the invitation,” East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill said Sunday. “All bowl games are exciting to me. I haven’t been in one in a while. Not going to one last year makes this even more exciting. … We’re looking forward to going to New Orleans and playing a great game against a great football team.”
The last time East Carolina played in a bowl game was in 2010 during McNeil’s first year with the school when it fell 51-20 to Maryland in the Military Bowl.
The Pirates’ last bowl victory came in 2007 when they topped Boise State 41-38 in the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl.
For the Ragin’ Cajuns, the trip to the R+L Carriers Bowl will be their second straight and will essentially serve as a home game as the contest will take place in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Last season, UL won its first bowl game in school history when it converted a late 50-yard field goal to top San Diego State 32-30.
McNeill’s meeting with the press was his first since the Pirates were added to the Big East and the third-year coach was thrilled about the move.
“I’m excited about it. I think it’s great not just for football but for our athletic program,” McNeill said. “I think it’s going to benefit all sports. I’m looking forward to the competition even though some of it will be similar. It will be great for recruiting and will expand our base.”
McNeill and his staff have been hot on the recruiting trail since their 65-59 double overtime victory over Marshall in the regular season finale and felt that the change in conference affiliation has been a plus.
“We got a lot of notice going into the schools,” McNeill said. “Every school and home I was in they brought up the move and they were as excited about it as we are.”
Since ECU’s Nov. 23 victory over Marshall the players have taken some time off to focus on schoolwork while the coaches have been scouring the country for future Pirates. However, with the bowl game within striking distance, the team has adjusted its practice schedule to help build up the young players for next season as well as prepare the team for UL.
“We’ll have 12 days of practice before we leave for the bowl site,” McNeill said. “The first five days will be for fundamentals, sharpening up our skills and we’ll have scrimmages for some of the young guys before we get into Lafayette.”