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Big fourth quarter carries East Carolina over Ohio in Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl

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East Carolina scored three touchdowns in the final 10 minutes of the game to blow open a tight contest and win the 2013 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, 37-20, over Ohio in St. Petersburg on Monday.

It was ECU’s first bowl win since 2007 and gave the Pirates (10-3) just their second 10-win season in school history. Ohio finished up the season 7-6.

For a while, it looked like the Bobcats might pull off the mild upset. They led the Pirates, 20-17, early in the fourth quarter following Josiah Yazdani’s 28-yard field goal, then got the ball back on a perfectly-executed onsides kick.

But Yazdani missed a 45-yard field goal attempt — his first miss of the season after 14-straight makes — and then ECU asserted itself.

That meant giving the ball to Vintavious Cooper, who rushed for 74 of his career-high 198 yards in the final quarter, including touchdown runs of 22 and 31 to put the game out of reach.

Shane Carden threw for 273 yards and also rushed for 40 yards for the Pirates, who piled up 568 yards of offense (including 281 on the ground).

Tyler Tettleton threw for 228 yards and a touchdown for the Bobcats but he threw three interceptions, including two in the fourth quarter that killed any chance for an Ohio comeback.

The bowl win caps the best season for ECU since 1991, when the Pirates finished 11-1.

Sneak Peek: 2013 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl

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WHO: 7-5 Ohio (MAC) vs. 9-3 East Carolina (C-USA)

WHAT: Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl (6th year)

WHERE: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.

WHEN: Dec. 23 at 2 p.m. ET

WHY: The MAC and Conference USA meet up in a battle of two teams that seem to be headed in opposite directions.

East Carolina won five of its last six to close the season while Ohio lost three of its last four. The Pirates have a chance to get to 10 wins, which would be the second-best win total in their history. The Bobcats are looking for their third consecutive bowl win and fourth-straight eight-win season.

ECU has a prolific offense led by quarterback Shane Carden, who threw for 3,866 yards and 32 touchdowns while also adding 10 scores on the ground. His top target is Justin Hardy, who caught 105 passes for 1,218 yards and eight touchdowns. Ohio counters with gritty quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who owns 21 school records and is 103 yards shy of becoming Bobcats’ first 9,000-yard career passer. He threw for 2,623 yards and 20 touchdown passes this year.

Ohio is in this game only because the AAC couldn’t fill its allotted bowl slots. If not for close losses to Virginia Tech (15-10) and Tulane (36-33), ECU could be 11-2 and in a more prominent bowl. The Pirates have the clear advantage.

PREDICTION: East Carolina 42, Ohio 21

MAC East race taking center stage

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It is Tuesday night in November, so the MAC is here just for you. While Northern Illinois is still holding strong as the banner program of the MAC right now, vying for a second straight BCS bowl trip this January, the MAC East is getting a chance to show off its division race for the right to potentially dethrone Jordan Lynch and the Huskies.

Buffalo (6-2, 4-0 MAC) and Ohio (6-2, 3-1 MAC) are going toe-to-toe up in New York while Bowling Green (5-3, 3-1 MAC) is looking to take care of their business on the road against Miami Ohio (0-8, 0-4). Buffalo started Tuesday with the upper hand in the MAC East division and Ohio and Bowling Green are right behind the Bulls. Buffalo and Bowling Green play in the regular season finale on November 29 in a game that could end up deciding which teams advances to the MAC Championship Game in Detroit.

Buffalo’s defense has been the story of the first half in the big game tonight. The Bulls have held the Bobcats without a third down conversion at the half. Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton has thrown for just 54 yards. Buffalo running back Branden Oliver has the game’s only score, a powerful touchdown run early in the second quarter for a 7-0 lead. Buffalo leads 7-3 at the half..

Bowling Green is doing their part in the first half against lowly Miami Ohio, leading the RedHawks 24-3 at halftime. Matt Johnson has thrown two touchdowns in the first half and the Falcons defense has shut down Miami’s running game by allowing 23 yards on 15 rushing attempts. A win for Bowling Green will make the Falcons bowl eligible for the second straight season. Bowling Green has not been eligible for postseason play in consecutive years since 2003-2004.

There will be more MAC goodness Wednesday night, with Ball State (8-1, 5-0 MAC) hosting Central Michigan (3-5, 2-2 MAC) with a chance to keep pace with Northern Illinois in the division standings. Ball State will visit Northern Illinois next Wednesday as well.

The Fifth Quarter: Week 9 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

Alabama vs. Oregon: Tale of the Tape
Seeing as Alabama and Oregon play in different conferences on essentially opposite sides of the country, there’s very little concrete data available to compare the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country.  With Tennessee on both of their schedules this season?  Yeah, the comparisons were going to be inevitable.  Back on Sept. 14 in Eugene, the Ducks led the Vols 38-7 at halftime; Oct. 26 in Tuscaloosa, the Tide led the Vols 35-0 after two quarters of play.  The final scores were 59-14 for the former, 45-10 for the latter.  The Ducks totaled 687 yards of offense while holding the Vols to 316; the Tide gave up 322 while gaining 479.

If special teams is your thing, Oregon was forced to punt three times while Alabama punted just twice.

The conclusion?  There is none, of course, other than UT was whipped six weeks apart by two very, very, very good football teams who could possibly square off in early January if they continue their winning ways.  That said, feel free to use the numbers to further whatever agenda you may be wanting to push.  Enjoy!

Brutus the Bully
With the three teams ahead of them in the BCS standings winning by a combined score of 136-41, Ohio State needed a statement game, something they’ve lacked throughout 2013.  Unfortunately for Penn State, that’s exactly what OSU went out and did.  The Buckeyes bullied the Nittany Lions in the first half, jumping out to a 42-7 before cruising to a 63-14 win.  Winning in this fashion won’t necessarily help Ohio State, though; they’re not leapfrogging Alabama, Oregon or Florida State anytime soon as long as those three teams keep winning.  Rather, such an impressive performance will likely keep the likes of Baylor from passing them in the polls and, thus, the BCS standings later on tonight.  That said, it’s still hard to wrap my head around the fact that Ohio State could conceivably carry a 25-game winning streak into early January… and be on the outside looking in when it comes to the BCS title game.  Again.

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Unitas Award releases preseason watch list

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What, you thought we were done with the watch list position of the offseason?

The latest to release its list of players to keep an eye on is the Unitas Award, given annually to the nation’s top quarterback.  A total of 30 players are included on this year’s watch list, including Ivy League member Cornell as the only non-FBS program represented.

A.J. McCarron, a finalist for the 2012 award won by Kansas State’s Collin Klein, headlines the list.  Ohio’s Tyler Tettleton was a semifinalist for last year’s award as well.

The SEC has six players on this year’s preseason list, followed by the ACC with five and the Mountain West with four.  The Big Ten, MAC and Pac-12 had three signal callers each.

Interestingly, just one FBS conference was not represented: the traditionally quarterback-rich Big 12.

Below is the complete list of players, courtesy of the Unitas Award Foundation:

2013 Unitas Award Watch List