As the bowl game approaches the Pirates have started to shift their focus from working on themselves to focusing on their opponents. Offensive Coordinator Riley has led an explosive offense all season which has averaged 31.2 points a game. I asked Coach Riley to describe what he sees in Louisiana-Lafayette's defense.
"They're a multiple front defense with some really good pass rushers," Riley said. "They play physical and have done a pretty nice job against the run; they've really gotten after some pretty good people, so it's going to be a good test for us."
Getting the running game going is a huge key for the Pirates and has been all season. The "running game by committee" approach that Lincoln Riley has stuck with has helped keep opponents honest throughout the season.
"We feel like our backs will match up great against these guys," Riley said. "They all have different styles of running which should be affective; our goal is to really get all of those guys going so that we can keep them on their toes and make it tougher for them to key in on one guy."
Conference USA Newcomer of the Year Vintavious Cooper talks Louisiana-Lafayette
Last week junior running back Vintavious Cooper was named C-USA Newcomer of the Year. Having just transferred from Junior College this must be a huge accomplishment, so I asked Cooper how it felt to earn this award.
"It feels great, I found out from Coach Riley after practice last week," Cooper said. "I'm proud that I was able to accomplish this with my teammates and I wouldn't have been able to do it without them."
Cooper has put up huge numbers all season long and in doing so has earned himself a 1,000 yard rushing season. Vintavious ran for over 100 yards in four games for the Pirates this season, something I'm sure he'd like to do in his first D-1 bowl game. I asked Cooper to describe their line backers, he had this to say.
"A lot of physicality, they're a very conditioned group with good speed and mobility; we'll have to follow our blocks, find lanes, and get up field when we get the chance."
Preparation is the key to winning and is something Cooper has accredited most of his and the team's success this season. Every week presents a different opponent and a new challenge which affects a team's preparation. I asked Cooper what in particular coaches have been stressing this week.
"Ball security, turnovers are something that can change the momentum of games negatively and that's something we don't want," Cooper said. "We'll stay focused on protecting the ball and play our game, if we do that there is no reason why we can't get the win."
Bullock's final game as a Pirate
Senior running back Reggie Bullock battled a concussion throughout the season and missed three games due to it. Since his return against Navy, Bullock finished the season with four touchdowns in the last four games. Bullock's play has improved game by game and he has a chance to really send a message in his last game as a Pirate; I asked Bullock to talk about the chance.
"It's going to be a great experience, I went to a bowl game when I played in Junior College but it's going to be different here at the University D-1 level," Bullock said. "This being my last game there is definitely going to be some emotions but I'm going to do all I can to help the team and get this win."
This running back core has depth, and Bullock is just one of the weapons the Pirates have in the back field; being a senior, Reggie is the wily veteran of the group. He knows what it takes to win games and this bowl game should be no different. I asked him what he has been emphasizing amongst his teammates.
"The last couple of practices we have had some trouble holding onto the ball, which I believe is from the time off; we're working on ball security and picking up the tempo so that we can come out fast when the time comes."
The Ragin' Cajuns have a solid line backing core led by leading tackler Justin Anderson who has over 100 tackles on the season. Cooper and company will have their hands full with the physicality and speed this group brings to the table. With that being said, I believe the Pirates can have success on the ground in this game; they will have to in order to get their passing game going. Inside ECU Sports will be at practice later in the week to get more information about how the Pirates are preparing for their bowl game.