The Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersberg will feature two teams showcasing high powered passing attacks. For the East Carolina Pirates (9-3), this game offers an opportunity to pick up their 10th victory of the season and finish with the most wins since the 1991 season (11). For the Ohio Bobcats (7-5), a victory will give seniors Tyler Tettleton and Beau Blankenship the chance to end their Bobcat careers with a third straight bowl win.
East Carolina has the 10th best passing offense in the country averaging 331.5 passing yards per game. Junior quarterback Shane Carden has a big arm and is having a very solid season. Carden has completed 71 percent of his passes for 3,866 yards with 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He is extremely accurate and in 12 games this season has been held under 60 percent completion percentage only one time (last game of year vs. Marshall).
The Pirates have been able to score points at will and are ranked 11th in the nation in scoring offense (40.4 points per game). Look for the Pirates to stretch the field against a Bobcat offense surrendering 212.2 passing yards per game. Wide receiver Justin Hardy is Carden’s favorite target as the junior has 102 receptions on the season for 1,218 yards and eight touchdowns.
A weakness of the Pirate offense could be the offensive line. East Carolina has given up 28 sacks through 12 games this season and must contain a Bobcat defensive front that has registered 33 sacks through 12 games.
The Bobcats have been one-dimensional offensively this year with their inability to rush the football consistently. Quarterback Tyler Tettleton has carried the team on his back as the Bobcats are averaging 238.5 passing yards per game (58th in the nation). Tettleton is completing 63.1 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions on the year.
The offensive line has been erratic and failed to open up holes for the running backs. The Bobcats are ranked 96th overall in rushing offense averaging 136.3 rushing yards per game. Running back Beau Blankenship has had a disappointing season gaining 844 yards with five touchdowns. However, in the last game of the season, Blankenship broke out for a 124 yards performance and one touchdown in the victory over UMASS.
The Bobcats will look to challenge a Pirate defense giving up 25.2 points per game (51st in the nation). East Carolina is yielding 245.8 passing yards per game and is surrendering 117.5 rushing yards per game. Ohio has been very good at rushing the passer and will look to force Carden into quick reads and throws.
The defense has created 22 turnovers (eight fumbles, 14 interceptions) and must be able to create turnovers in this match up to give Tettleton and company a short field.
East Carolina has been very opportunistic on defense and is plus-5 in turnover margin.
Prediction: While East Carolina has the better offense, the Ohio Bobcats are a veteran team with a senior quarterback in Tyler Tettleton. Head coach Frank Solich has won two straight bowl games and the pressure could fall onto East Carolina into picking up the victory. Look for the Bobcats to test the middle of the Pirates’ defense as Tettleton and Blankenship end their careers with a bowl victory.
Ohio 42 – East Carolina 31