ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. —- How did Uncle Mel get an invitation, somebody must of made a mistake?
Your uncle from the other side of the family was working hard in the office of the News Gathering Center of the South, busy shifting through and reading stories, filling out expense account when his concentration was interrupted by a long distance phone call.
A voice from the past that Uncle Mel remembered, an old friend from the Mid-American Conference and a football coach that likes to mix the new wave of thinking with the old ways of playing football on the field.
Speaking into the phone, Ohio University football coach Frank Solich, he knew that his old buddy from the conference was living in the state of Florida and Solich needed some help.
“What is this Beef O’Brady’s Bowl?” Solich asked. “Where is it played?”
Well, the good folks of ESPN Regional Television decided that a bowl game desperately needed to be played in the city of St. Petersburg, at Tropicana Field and the bowl game has been around since 2008.
“Ok, then we will be there!” Solich said. “I will see you soon, please stop by and we will talk about the glorious history of Ohio University football.”
Ohio University packed up their gear, the players, the coaches and boarded the plane for the Sunshine State and all of the great hospitality that St. Petersburg can offer.
The 2013 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl will feature from the Mid-American Conference, Ohio University and the newest member of the American Athletic Conference but will be representing for the last time, Conference USA, East Carolina University.
The Bobcats have an overall record of 7-5 and leading the offense is quarterback Tyler Tettleton and running back Beau Blankenship. The Bobcats are led on defense by red-shirt sophomore linebacker Ben Russell and by junior free safety Josh Kristoff.
Both teams like to spread the field with multiple offensive scheme and the both teams will rely on speed and quickness on defense. The Bobcats will play defense with a 4-3 look while the Pirates will deploy a 3-4.
Tettleton just needs 104 yards passing, to become the first Bobcat quarterback to throw for 9,000 yards during his Ohio University career and he needs two touchdown passes for 68 in his career, surpassing former Northern Illinois University quarterback Chandler Hamish.
“Hopefully we’ll have a chance to score a lot of points and see what happens,” Tettleton said. “Historically they’re a great program. Obviously, anybody that makes it in to the postseason is going to be good.”
Blankenship needs just 90 yards to become the fourth tailback in Ohio University history to run for 3,000 yards.
“They’re really good,” Blankenship said about facing East Carolina. “They’re a great team, they have some great wins this year and we’re excited to play a team like that!”
The Bobcats defense will have a tough task trying to contain the Pirate offense, they’ve scored 40.4 points per game during the season and won five of their last six games.
Pirates quarterback Shane Carden has thrown for 32 touchdown passes and he also has ran for 10 touchdowns. He is accurate when he is throwing the ball, his 71 percent of completing passes leads the country.
The Pirates top receiver Justin Hardy has caught 105 passes for 1,218 yards and eight touchdowns.
The Pirates defense is the toughest in their conference when stopping the run and have sacked the opponent quarterback 35 times.
East Carolina University linebacker Derrel Johnson leads the Pirates defense with 79 tackles, 13.5 tackles for losses and 3.5 sacks.
“I did get a chance to look at some film on them. They have got a great combination of things,” Solich said. “You don’t have great passing stats without having a great quarterback that is poised. He’s a great thrower, he is knowledgeable about the game and read things well.”
Solich plan is for his offensive line to play physical and open up holes, because Solich would likes to control the clock and the tempo of the game with a punishing running game.
Tettleton will throw the ball, but just to keep the Pirate defense honest but make no mistake, the Bobcats will use a ground game.
The Bobcat defense will have to contain the Pirate’s offense, they like to get the ball down the field in a hurry and catch the defense with the wrong people on the field.
Carden said he is just happy to be in Florida and with a chance to play in front of a national television network.
“I’m excited about all of the activities and to get back on national TV to show what we are all about,” Carden said. “I’m happy it’s sunny with no clouds, 75, and to get out of the rain.”
The Bobcats appearance in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl will be the fifth consecutive bowl appearance
In the history of Ohio University, the Bobcats have made seven bowl appearance and have only a 2-5 record.
East Carolina University football coach Ruffin McNeill is currently in his fourth year on the sideline for the Pirates.
The Beef O’Brady Bowl is the seventh bowl game appearance for the Pirates in the last eight years.
“The team and staff were excited to get down here and have a chance to used to the environment,” McNeill said about his team’s anticipation about playing in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. “Our team has done a great job embracing the process. This by far is one of the best bowl venues.”
The game plan for the Pirates defense will be to contain Tettleton from making the big play and shutting down the running ability of Blankenship.
“I think offensively, they play an up-beat, NASCAR offense like we do,” McNeill said about the preparing his team against the Bobcats. “They have a quarterback that has a lot of snaps under his belt so we have to be ready to change looks. You can’t stay in the same thing versus him. Defensively, they’re sound. We have to work hard on execution and keeping clear minds, so we have to be fast legs and we can play fast Monday.”
With invitation in hand, a map to find Tropicana Field and when Monday afternoon arrives your old Uncle will be witnessing two good football programs, playing in a respectable bowl game, in a beautiful city-and that is no mistake.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.