In a game that was close for the first three quarters of play, East Carolina ran away—literally and figuratively—with the 2013 Beef 'O' Brady’s Bowl by a final score of 37-20 over Ohio.
Shane Carden finished the game with 273 yards passing and a touchdown, but teammate Vintavious Cooper stole the show. Cooper had a monster game, finishing with 198 rushing yards and two touchdowns, with both coming in the fourth quarter.
Cooper earned Beef 'O' Brady’s Bowl MVP honors after his electric game, and Joey Knight of the Tampa Bay Times shared this photo:
While Cooper put up the big numbers, Carden had one of the more memorable plays of the game—as a receiver. SportsCenter’s Twitter account shared video of the play in which Carden caught a 14-yard pass from receiver Cam Worthy, who also caught the first touchdown of the game:
Quarterback Tyler Tettleton's career at Ohio comes to an end with the loss. The senior threw for just 228 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. His senior counterpart Donte Foster finished with 160 yards receiving and a touchdown to close out his Ohio career.
East Carolina possessed one of the most potent passing attacks in college football this season, averaging 331.5 passing yards per game, but the ground game carried the Pirates offense early in the first half. Cooper only carried the ball 12 times in the first 30 minutes, but he picked up 104 yards and set up two touchdowns with his work on the ground.
Along with Cooper, Breon Allen rushed for over 40 yards in the first half and scored the second touchdown of the game. ECU finished with 166 yards rushing in the first half in total, with Carden adding an additional 19 yards of his own.
At halftime, head coach Ruffin McNeill spoke about his offensive line play that helped Cooper and Allen break out early in the game, according to ESPN analyst and former NFL wide receiver Joey Galloway:
Carden also passed for 199 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but was unable to convert for the Pirates on two separate fourth-down conversion attempts, opening the door for Ohio. ECU came in with an 80 percent fourth-down conversion rating.
The Bobcats offense took advantage of some key defensive stops and scored two touchdowns of their own through the passing game. While the first touchdown came on a 17-yard pass from Tettleton to Daz Patterson to put the game at 14-7, the second was anything but normal.
Backup quarterback Derrius Vick took a snap from behind center and looked to run—Vick had more rushing attempts this season (28) than passing completions (18)—but instead dropped back and found leading-receiver Foster down the field for an 80-yard touchdown to put the score at 14-14 in the second quarter.
The pass was the longest in Beef 'O’ Brady’s Bowl history, according to the Raleigh News & Observer’s ACC Now Twitter account:
That 80-yard TD pass to Donte Foster longest in BOBs Bowl history. ECU 14, Ohio 14, early 2Q.— ACC Now (@accnow) December 23, 2013
The Pirates were able to salvage a 41-yard field goal to close out the half and took a 17-14 lead into the locker room.
The Bobcats continued to plug away in the third and fourth quarter with two field goals to take a 20-17 lead with 13:34 remaining in the fourth quarter. But that was where it all turned for Ohio as East Carolina’s offense exploded for 20-unanswered points to win its first bowl game since 2007.
Leah Rubertino, a sports anchor for WBTV in Charlotte, pointed out that the win now makes the 2013 team the second best in school history:
Congrats to East Carolina ... 37-20 win over Ohio in Beef O'Bradys bowl secures their 10th win of season. 2nd best in school history.— Leah Rubertino WBTV (@LRubertinoWBTV) December 23, 2013
With both teams heading now in seemingly different directions, East Carolina has another statement win during the Ruffin McNeill era after defeating in-state rivals North Carolina and N.C. State earlier this season.
Shane Carden (Quarterback, East Carolina): A
Carden needed to get the bad taste out of his mouth after dropping the final game of the season against Marshall, and he got the job done on Monday. The junior quarterback not only threw for 273 yards and a touchdown, but also amassed 40 yards on the ground and finished with a receiving touchdown.
Along with his ability to find open receivers all game, Carden might have one of the more memorable plays of the bowl season so far with his receiving score.
Tyler Tettleton (Quarterback, Ohio): C-
It’s hard to give Tettleton a D because he fought so hard to bring the Bobcats back in this one. But his late interceptions and an inability to drive the ball down the field in the fourth quarter led to the loss for Ohio.
The senior had a great career at Ohio, statistically one of the best quarterbacks in the school’s history, but this loss will sting. His three-interception performance is hardly what Tettleton will be remembered for.
Vintavious Cooper (Running Back, East Carolina): A+
This one is pretty easy. Cooper finished the game just shy of 200 yards rushing, but he made sure to get over that total mark with 22 yards receiving to finish with 220 total yards and two touchdowns. The senior has been a workhorse for the Pirates all season, and his performance on the big stage could catapult him as he moves on to a possible professional career.
Carden wasn’t the only ECU player with a highlight-reel play in the game, as SportsCenter tweeted out another video of a great run by Cooper:
Both teams’ seasons come to an end following the bowl game, but they are now heading in separate directions in 2014.
East Carolina is headed to the American Athletic Conference next season and will do so with Carden leading the way in his final season. The Pirates will also retain breakout star Isaiah Jones, who should be expected to build upon a sophomore season that included 62 catches and five touchdowns.
For Ohio, the program will have to rebuild after losing Tettleton, who amassed over 9,000 yards, 67 touchdowns and never dipped below a 140 quarterback rating in a season during his three years as a starter.