One Last Go-Around

ECU's senior class looks to achieve some program history by ending its bowl-slump against the Ohio Bobcats in next Monday's Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.

Nobody among East Carolina's senior class has ever experienced ending a season with a victory while on campus. So it is only fitting they have a chance to end an extended bowl-slump and make history in next Monday's Beef ‘O'Brady's Bowl.

ECU's last bowl win: 2007; last 10-win season: 1991.

Those are just a few things still left on the table for this year's Pirates (9-3) – a group that has already accomplished so much in 2013 – but coming off an embarrassing loss at Marshall and still seeking their first bowl triumph, they are preparing for Ohio with chips on their shoulders.

"It's pretty large," said senior offensive tackle Adhem Elsawi of the size of the chip the team collective dons," I don't think really much needs to be said other than that. We take pride in going out there and playing physical. We talked about going out there and being conference champions and fell we fell short of that goal. So we have a lot to prove."

Elsawi returned to the team for its win at North Carolina State after some thought he his career was finished after suffering from a detached retina. Fellow senior Zico Pasut went through intense treatment on his left foot in order to play in ECU's regular season finale.

Pasut has been described by Head Coach Ruffin McNeill as the team's most valuable player because he can carry the ball, catch passes and block.

"Coach Ruff is just being a nice guy," Pasut said, laughing. "I don't see myself as the most valuable player. I do what I can to help the team; whatever role they ask me to do, I go and do it the best I can."

Unlike Pasut and Elsawi, senior tailback Vintavious Cooper took the junior college route and transferred to ECU prior to the last season. He became the first Pirates' tailback to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in 2012 (1,049) since Dominique Lindsay did so in 2009.

The 5-9, 200-pound Homerville, Ga. native has amassed 995 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing this year, while hauling in 41 receptions for another 390 yards through the air.

Although his stint at ECU has been abbreviated, Cooper feels as if he is a part of a family with this group of seniors.

"I'm happy to be able to put it on one more time with these guys and it's a great group of fellas we have here," said Cooper. "We've built a family here and it will definitely be an emotional for me."

Sophomore Zeek Bigger emerged at inside linebacker when senior Kyle Tudor went down. Bigger compiled 71 tackles, which was third-best on the team, and 4.5 tackles-for-loss in 12 games for ECU, but has always given credit to credit to his "brothers" that brought him along the ranks.

So aside from being driven strictly to achieve redemption, Bigger wants to send this group of seniors out properly.

"When I first got here, they were some of the boys that I looked up to and kept me motivated and kept me going hard on the field … even when I had my down days," said Bigger. "I know we haven't won a bowl game in a while and I know it would be great to send our seniors out with (a bowl win) and also for us to get one before we move to a new conference."

Bigger wears the same No. 44 McNeill wore from 1976-1979 at ECU. During his playing career, McNeill led the Pirates to their first bowl appearance in the modern era when ECU defeated Louisiana Tech in 1978 Independence Bowl.

Although McNeill has desperately aspired to bring a bowl win back to his alma mater, he has publicly said he wants it more for the players he has recruited.

"It's not about me, it's about the players," said McNeill. "It's a personal obsession for wanting players to be able to accomplish things off-the-field, academically and on-the-field. It means the world to me to see our players succeed and to see them happy. That's what it's all about."


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