Broncos Set To Battle Pirates In Hawai'i Bowl

The college football bowl season is unique in that it often pits two teams against each other that would never play otherwise. Tonight's Hawai'i Bowl is such a contest with Boise State battling East Carolina. The game kicks off at 6 p.m.

Boise State and East Carolina are set to tangle tonight in Honolulu in the Sheraton Bowl.  It is the Broncos' fifth different bowl in five years.


The Pirates represent Conference-USA, accumulating a 6-2 conference mark and a 1-3 record against four "BCS" teams.  Included in their C-USA slate was a 37-35 win away from home against a solid Houston team, a 28-21 loss to Southern Mississippi and a 26-7 season-ending defeat at the hands of Marshall.  The Pirates closed the campaign by winning three of their last five games and six of their last eight.  Skip Holtz is the head man for ECU. 


In ECU's season-opener, they gave #5 Virginia Tech a scare before falling 17-7.  The Pirates also lost to #11 West Virginia (48-7) and North Carolina State (34-20) but downed North Carolina 34-21.


In the Houston game, the Pirates were dominated in total offense 484-329 but still found a way to win.  The Pirate defense shut out Houston in the fourth quarter while protecting the narrow two-point lead. 


East Carolina averaged 30.2 points per game this season while allowing 29.8.  ECU owns the distinction of leading the nation with 20 drives of a minute or less that ended in touchdowns.  They are a quick-strike unit and are resourceful.  Tailback Chris Johnson is the key to their attack with 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns.  Johnson is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.  Johnson leads the nation in all-purpose yards in addition to ranking 31st in rushing (right behind Boise State's Ian Johnson, who is 29th).  The ECU star has 496 receiving yards and is one of the country's top kickoff returners at 28.5 yards per return.  Quarterback Pat Pinkney's 253 yards is second on the team, while Dwayne Harris' 10.2 average (17-173) demands attention as well.  


The Pirates send two quarterbacks into tonight's game who will split playing time as they have all season.  Rob Kass (95-172 for 1,128 yards and nine TD's) and Pinkney (109-181 for 1,240 and 10 touchdowns) possess skills that the Broncos will have to scheme for.  As noted above, Pinkney is the better runner of the two.


While the Broncos will only have three receivers in tonight's game that have more than 10 catches on the season, ECU boasts seven.  Jamar Bryant (42 catches for 626 yards and six TD's) tops the Pirates while Phillip Henry has 27 for 279, Harris 25-224, Rogers 24-246, Davon Drew 19-196 and Juwon Crowell 10-144.


Harris handles punt returns for ECU, and sports an 8.4 average.  Ben Hartman was 11-20 on field goal tries and a perfect 45-45 on PAT's this season.  Matt Dodge is a reliable punter (41.2 average) with 24 landing inside the 20.


The Pirates will be out to prove they can top one of the Western Athletic Conference's best programs.  They were huge underdogs to Virginia Tech and only lost by 10.  With several key players out of the lineup for Boise State, the Broncos will need people to step up for their teammates.  As is usually the case with bowl games, it will amount to which team wants it more.


The fun begins tonight with a 6 o'clock kickoff.  The game is nationally-televised by ESPN2.

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