This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features East Carolina University Pirates taking on the University of Maryland Terrapins in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, previously known as the EagleBank Bowl, which is now in its 3rd year taking place at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
East Carolina, 6-6, 5-3 C-USA, is lead under first year head coach Ruffin McNeill and has the Pirates strength being their explosive passing attack, which ranks 7th nationally at 319.3 ypg. Quarterback Dominique Davis has thrown for 36 touchdowns while completing nearly 65 percent of his passes. His 3,699 passing yards are the 4th-most in the nation. Behind Davis the Pirates rank 12th in the nation in scoring at 38 ppg.
The Pirates have a pair of top-notch receivers in Lance Lewis and Dwayne Harris, a First Team All-Conference USA pick as both a wideout and punt returner. Lewis has caught 78 passes for 979 yards and a team-high 13 touchdowns, while Harris set single-season school records with 93 catches and 1,055 yards to go along with 10 touchdowns. The rushing game is handled by Jon Williams who has rushed for 846 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
Defensivley the Pirates have found themselves in shootouts on a weekly basis this season as they ranked dead last out of 120 Division I schools in total defense at 478.8 ypg and rank 118th in scoring defense at 43 ppg.
Maryland, 8-4, 5-3 ACC, had the second best turnaround in all of college football season as they posted a 6 win increase from a year ago. However, the Terps suffered a pair of late-season losses to division leaders Florida State and Miami to finish one game shy of qualifying for the ACC title game. Now, they must be carry a heavy emotional burden into this game as Athletic Director Kevin Anderson had decided to not bring back head coach Ralph Friedgen, who was responsible for the turnaround next season and named the ACC Coach of the Year.
The Terps offense has been anything but dynamic, as they rank 85th nationally in total offense 342.4 ypg and have had virtually no running game. However, in their last three wins the Terps quarterback Danny O’Brien began to grow into the role of the teams leader and displayed it on the field in each performance. On the season as whole though O’Brien has completed only 56.8 percent of his passes while throwing 21 touchdowns against only 6 interceptions. A major part of O’Brien late season success was his ability to find Torrey Smith who has caught 65 passes for 1,045 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he’ll no doubt be able to work his strengths against a Pirates horrible secondary.
This marks the first ever meeting between these two schools.
PICK: University of Maryland Terrapins
The 52nd annual Liberty Bowl will see East Carolina Pirates from Conference USA, in their second consecutive appearance, to face from the SEC the Arkansas Razorbacks in Memphis.
The Razorbacks have a long history of participating in bowl games, but unfortunately winning those matchups have been tough for this school. This will be the 37th bowl game for Arkansas, but the team is just 11-22-3 in the postseason, and has lost 12 of its last 14 bowl games, including a 38-7 setback to Missouri in the 2008 Cotton Bowl.
Bobby Petrino’s Razorbacks definitely possessed one of the most dangerous offensive units in the entire nation, as the team produced 37 ppg. The ground game is churning out 136 yards per without a true running back. Michael Smith led the way on the year with 396 yards, while Broderick Green added 392 yards and 11 touchdowns on 4.2 yards per carry. Ryan Mallett was the difference maker throwing for 3,422 yards with 29 touchdowns against just 7 interceptions. Greg Childs hauled in 45 receptions for 862 yards and 7 touchdowns and Jarius Wright collected 37 passes for 591 yards and 4 scores while Joe Adams also caught 7 touchdowns.
The Razorbacks were unable to keep up with the top teams in their conference was because the defense was simply not good enough. The defense allowed 25 ppg throughout the season and was unable to stop opponents on the ground or through the air. Arkansas was gashed for 150.1 rushing ypg, and even worse was their performance against the pass, as teams torched this unit for 251.8 ypg and also tossed 21 touchdowns against Arkansas. The defense however, was one of the top teams in the country in forcing turnovers, racking up 34 takeaways on the year. Pressuring the quarterback was also another solid area for this team, with 26 sacks. The Razorbacks also stepped up their effort when it mattered most defensively, as the team held opponents to just 36 percent on third downs and allowed just 17 touchdowns in 39 red zone chances for the opposition. Jerry Franklin led the way for Arkansas on the season with 84 tackles, while Adrian Davis and Jake Bequette both collected 5.5 sacks apiece.
As for Skip Holtz’s Pirates, they could not find their stride out of the gate in 2009, splitting their first six games down the middle however the Pirates really took off winning six of their last seven games. East Carolina’s bowl history is not as dated as Arkansas but do have a mark of 5-5 in postseason. However, the team has lost three of its last four and that includes a 25-19 setback to Kentucky in last season’s Liberty Bowl.
The Pirates relied on their rushing attack as the team rumbled for 149.6 ypg on 4.1 yards per attempt. 23 of the team’s 37 touchdowns came on the ground and those scores helped ECU average a respectable 27 ppg. Dominique Lindsay was the main source of production rumbling for 1,029 yards and 5 scores on 5.0 yards per carry. The passing attack has not been as successful as the ground game because Pat Pinkney was inconsistent throwing for 2,738 yards and 14 scores against 10 interceptions. Dwayne Harris was the top wideout with 79 receptions, 914 yards and 6 touchdowns. Darryl Freeney was also a solid option for Pinkney and finished the regular season with 42 catches for 624 yards and three scores.
Overall the play by the defensive unit for East Carolina was solid, as the team held the opposition to just 22 ppg. The Pirates did a solid job against the run, limiting teams to just 123.3 ypg however the secondary was torched for 262.3 ypg through the air, and surrendered 23 passing touchdowns. C.J. Wilson led the way with 5.5 sacks on the year, while Scott Robinson added five sacks. Nick Johnson led the team with 94 tackles on the season, while Van Eskridge racked up 93 stops and a team-best six interceptions.
This is the first ever meeting between the two schools on the football field.
PICK: University of Arkansas Razorbacks