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 EagleBank Bowl is back for it’s second year and will see the Temple Owls who are enjoying the team’s most successful campaign in decades take on the UCLA Bruins at RFK Stadium in the nation’s capital.
The savior for the Temple program is head coach Al Golden, who in his fourth season and has guided the Owls to an outstanding 9-3 overall record and a mark of 7-1 in the Mid-American Conference. The Owls where in a tie for first place in the MAC’s East Division and with nine straight wins, Temple managed its most successful season since finishing 10-2 in 1979 when it traveled to the Garden State Bowl. Prior to a 28-17 win over California in that bowl game three decades ago, the only other postseason appearance for the Owls took place in the 1935 Sugar Bowl when they lost to Tulane 20-14.
Temple offense is mainly a ground attacking team that set a new school record for rushing touchdowns with 27. Bernard Pierce made a huge impact during his freshman season as he set a new record for first-year running backs with his 1,308 yards and scored 15 touchdowns on 224 attempts. Fellow freshman Matt Brown made some noise as he subbed for Pierce and turned in 446 yards and 4 scores on 69 rushing plays. With 192.3 ypg on the ground, the Owls ranked 23rd in the nation this season. However the passing attack took a back seat and did averaging a mere 145.4 ypg through the air ranking near the bottom nationally,112th. Quarterback Vaughn Charlton was credited with 1,231 yards and 9 touchdowns, but in the last four games of the season the offense was charged to sophomore signal-caller Chester Stewart who completed 26-of-65 attempts for 514 yards and 3 scores. For a team that focuses little on the passing attack, Michael Campbell was the leader down the field with his 25 catches for 404 yards and 3 scores, while Joe Jones tacked on 382 yards and a touchdown with his 27 grabs.
Temple ranked 19th in the country with just 108.8 ypg allowed, while the pass defense told a different story with 226.8 ypg permitted being caught off guard a few too many times, the unit has a rating of 109.8 in pass efficiency defense, ranking them 106th in the country. Junior safety Jaiquawn Jarrett had 64 tackles and a team-best 3 interceptions, a pair of fumble recoveries and a forced fumble along the way.
As for the Bruins, directed by Rick Neuheisel who is in his second year won three straight to open the season before losing five in a row. The Bruins finished 6-6 and a mere 3-6 against the rest of the Pac-10 Conference, the team still did qualify for the postseason for the 11th time in the last 13 seasons. UCLA is making its 30th postseason appearance all-time and has a record of 13-15-1 in previous bowl games. The Bruins have lost two straight and four of their last five postseason bids their last win was against Northwestern in the 2005 Sun Bowl.
The Bruins offense rest on the shoulders of redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Prince, who became just the second freshman in school history to start the season under center for the school. Price was so up and down all year long did throw for more than 300 yards three times this year, completed 56.7 percent of his pass attempts for 1,829 yards and 6 touchdowns, but was also picked off 7 times. Out of the backfield Johnathan Franklin logged 123 carries for 560 yards and 5 touchdowns, but Chane Moline needed only 45 rushing attempts to match Franklin for the team lead in rushing scores. Senior wideout Terrence Austin turned 3 of his 35 receptions into touchdowns, giving him the team lead in that department. Sophomore Taylor Embree had 43 catches and Nelson Rosario had 38 grabs.
The Bruins best weapon on offense is their kicker and ALL-SGE-NCAA Football Team member Kai Forbath, he was 26-of-29 on field goal attempts and made all but one of his 23 extra points on his way to scoring 100 points in 2009.
On defense the Bruins worked hard to disrupt plays in the backfield against the competition and that determination resulted in the group ranking eighth in the country in tackles for loss with almost eight per contest. Brian Price lead the conference and tying for third in the nation with 1.88 tackles for loss per contest. Of his 43 overall stops this season, 22.5 came on the other side of the line of scrimmage and he also led the team with 7 sacks. The Bruins also have a dynamite safety in Rahim Moore, a sophomore, leads the nation with 9 interceptions.
Temple is facing off against the Bruins for the first time ever, but this is actually the second trip to RFK for the Owls who loss to Virginia Tech back in 1995.
PICK: Temple University Owls