A special day

ECU hosts the University of Alabama at Birmingham Saturday for senior night. Inside ECU Sports spoke with players and coaches about the Senior day experience.

Senior day is a special day in any sport. For graduating seniors, playing the last home game in their stadium is a culmination of all of the years of hard work – and for most it can be an emotional day. It's their last shot to perform in front of their home crowd.

During his weekly press conference, head coach Ruffin McNeill mentioned this year's senior day will be emotional for him. After all, this senior class did arrive at ECU the same time as McNeill did four years ago.

One of the most talented of this class is senior free safety Damon Mgazu. Since his first game, Magazu has been a key part of the Pirates' secondary. During his freshman campaign, Magazu sealed a 33-27 victory against the N.C. State by intercepting a (now Seattle Seahawk) Russell Wilson pass in the endzone during overtime.

Magazu knows playing his last game inside of Dowdy-Ficklen will be emotional. With that being said, he mentioned the team is focused on the task at hand.

"Right now we're just focusing on playing this game to get a win," said Magazu. "Wins aren't easy to come by. Once I'm walking on the field it will finally hit me that it's Senior day, I'll see coach Ruff and my family out there so it'll be an emotional time. I've had a lot of great memories in Dowdy-Ficklen and in this program."

Along with Magazu, senior defensive end Derrell Johnson has been an impact player for the Pirate defense year in and year out since his arrival. He finished the 2012-2013 season top three in total tackles and led the Pirates in sacks.

Johnson is excited for the Senior day festivities and is happy with where ECU stands right now.

"It's going to be a great experience since I've been here for four years," Johnson said. "To control our destination to a conference (USA) championship is the plan. I can't ask for a better situation to be in and I'm extremely blessed to be around a group of guys like this. This family bond we've built on the team since I've been here is something I'll always remember."

UAB put up 35 points on ECU last season when the Pirates escaped with a 42-35 win in Birmingham. This year's defense is a whole different level with Rick Smith at the helm.

The Pirates will need to show off their No.5 ranked rushing defense against a Blazer backfield that knows how to run the ball.

Junior linebacker Jeremy Grove is seeing more time each week after coming back from an injury. Having played against the Blazers multiple times, Grove knows ECU will have to play smart.

"(UAB) has a lot of formations that we have to adjust to," Grove said. "We've been working on those. Our main goal for the week is to stop the run and make them pass."

When Grove went down with his shoulder injury, sophomore linebacker Zeek Bigger had to answer the call. He did just that, and has played at a high-level since stepping on the field.

Bigger credits the seniors for mentoring him during his first season as a red-shirt until his eventual role on the field this season.

"They have helped me a lot," said Bigger. "Growing up around these boys has been great. After being red-shirted freshman year with an injury, I had them pushing me and telling me never to give up. I'm going to give them my all for this Senior night game."

It's every programs goal to send its seniors out in style with a win. The Pirates should do that with ease on Saturday.


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