Military Bowl Preview


It seems a lot of writers have taken to previewing the Military Bowl by remembering Ralph Friedgen’s career in a whimsical fashion. If you’re looking for that now, you’ve come to the wrong place – right now we’re just going to look at the game strictly in a football sense.

East Carolina went 6-6 this year, including a 5-3 mark in Conference-USA play in Ruffin McNeill’s first year as head coach. Here’s where it gets crazy – McNeill was hired away from Texas Tech, where he was Mike Leach’s defensive coordinator, so he could be considered to be a defensively-minded head coach. That’s exactly where the Pirates have struggled, however.

ECU’s defensive statistics have been, well, awful. Here are the rankings (out of 120 FBS teams):

  • 120th in total defense, allowing 478.83 yards per game (almost ten yards more than the next team on the list, New Mexico).
  • 119th in 3rd down conversion percentage defense, allowing opponents to convert on 51.72% of third down attempts. They’re one of three schools in the country, along with Rice and Colorado State, to allow opponents to convert on more than half.
  • 118th in scoring defense, allowing 43.42 points per game. In their past five games, they’ve given up an average of 54.8 points per game.
  • 116th in rushing defense, allowing 220.83 yards per game on the ground. Unfortunately, Maryland can’t run.
  • 108th in passing defense, allowing 258 yards yards per game through the air.
  • 107th in passing efficiency defense, allowing a 148.84 mark to opposing QBs.

So yeah, to say the Pirates have struggled this year on defense would be an understatement of massive proportions. However, they were able to salvage a .500 season and a bowl appearance thanks to a very successful offense led by quarterback Dominique Davis – a face that should be familiar to Maryland fans. Davis formerly played for the Boston College Eagles, where he led his team to a victory in 2008 over the Terps.

This season, Davis has passed for 3,699 yards with 36 touchdowns, while rushing for nine touchdowns as well. His top target has been Dwayne Harris, a senior who has caught 93 passes for 1,055 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Lance Lewis has 78 receptions for 979 yards and 13 touchdowns as well.

The Pirates have not been largely successful on the ground this year, but senior Jonathan Williams has 846 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, nearly 200 yards more than Maryland’s leading rusher, Davin Meggett.

In terms of common opponents, East Carolina lost to Navy 76-35 and beat NC State 33-27 in overtime. The Pirates also lost to two other ACC teams, Virginia Tech (49-27) and North Carolina (42-17), who Maryland did not play this year.

With strategy, expect to see a lot of sets with six defensive backs from Don Brown. Third corner Avery Graham is finally back from his injury, which is great news, not only because Graham is quite talented but because Michael Carter is not. Eric Franklin and Matt Robinson will get a lot of playing time, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some 3-2-6 formations.

On offense, it will probably be the same old, same old that we’ve seen recently – try and establish the run early on and if/when that fails, let Danny O’Brien go to work. In his last game as a Terp, maybe Da’Rel Scott will finally have a game where he runs hard all the way through. That’s just wishful thinking, though.

My prediction? Maryland 52, East Carolina 24. These kids really love Coach Friedgen, and I think they’ll play their most complete game of the year for him.

What do you think? Answer our poll on the right side of the page (you’ll have to scroll down some).