Practice Update: Pirates Preparing

With their bowl game approaching, the Pirates are back at it and have started to prepare for their opponent Louisiana-Lafayette. Inside ECU Sports was at practice yesterday to talk to Coach Ruffin McNeill, Shane Carden, and Jeremy Grove about their bowl game match-up.

Coach Ruff talks Ragin' Cajuns

A win in this bowl game will be huge for Coach Ruffin McNeill; this is his chance to get his first bowl win as the head coach of the Pirates in his three year tenure. With that being said, Coach Ruff knows it's not going to be easy. I asked him to describe their team.

"They're a well-coached bunch that has been playing well, especially towards the end of the year." Ruff said.

The Pirates have seen an array of offenses all season long; ranging from Navy's triple-option to Marshall's Air raid. I asked Coach what he knows about the Ragin' Cajun offense, he had this to say, "They have a very balanced offense with a quarterback who is a dual threat; also they have one of the biggest offensive lines that we have seen to this point, we'll have to be ready for a battle."

The Pirates put up points like it was going out of style in their last three games of the season; with the most coming in their double overtime win against Marshall on November 23rd, where they put up sixty five points. I asked coach Ruff what Louisiana-Lafayette does defensively.

"They are a 4-3 front, but do multiple things as well; their special-teams is also solid," McNeill said. "We're going to have to make sure we account for all of those things as we dive into them more in the coming weeks."

Carden continues to show composure

To say that quarterback Shane Carden balled out in the season finale against Marshall is a bad understatement. Carden threw for three touchdowns and ran for three in that game, stats that jump off the page considering Shane came into the season as a sophomore backup. That kind of production is a great sign for Pirate fans and I asked Shane whether that game has given this offense momentum heading into the bowl game.

"Definitely, I think that game showed our fans and us what we're capable of," Carden said. "Watching film we all agreed we could still do a lot better and that we left a lot of stuff on the field; it's exciting to know that we can do more and it has given us confidence going into this next game."

The Pirate's bowl destination was decided when Tulsa beat UCF in the C-USA Championship two weeks ago. The outcome of that game decided whether the Pirates would head to St. Petersburg, FL to play in the Beef O' Brady's Bowl or to New Orleans to face Louisiana-Lafayette. I asked Shane what his opinion on their bowl destination was.

"I'm just excited to go to a bowl in general; Louisiana is a great place, we played there earlier this year which I think helps us a lot. They are a good team, I talked to them in High School, so it's going to be fun to go down there and play against them."

The Pirates took a week off of practice after their season finale thriller with Marshall. Staying focused can be a challenge for teams entering the bowl season. I asked Shane how the morale at practice has been since they started back up Monday.

"It's been good, today the offense definitely picked it up from our practice yesterday but both days have been solid," Carden said. "We've been trying to fine-tune some things and get better as an offense before we really get into what they run."

Grove assures the defense is prepared

The Pirate defense gave up a whopping fifty nine points to Marshall in their season finale, something they can't do if they plan on coming out of Nola' with a win in two weeks. Sophomore line-backer Jeremy Grove is a forced to be reckoned with on the field and a defensive standout. I asked him if that game was a sign of what's to come.

Grove responded, "We watched film and have learned from it, but it is better to have it happen then rather than in the bowl game; we've taken notes on our mistakes so that they don't happen in this next game."

Preparation is the key to success during bowl season and at times it can be tough for coaches to get a team fired up and focused with such a long break between games. The Pirates have done a good job all season in scouting opponent's strengths and weaknesses; I asked Grove what the coaches have been stressing so far this week.

"Stop the run, we haven't watched any film on them yet but I've heard they have a great O-line," Grove said. "They have good running backs and a good quarterback but our main goal is always to stop the run and that's what we aim to do."

The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is one of the most renowned football arenas in the United States. It is an intimidating place to play, especially if the team you have to play is from Louisiana. I asked Grove how he feels about the host venue.

"It's awesome, I didn't think it was that big until we went down there and played Tulane; it's a cool place and I feel like it's going to be a lot better this time since a lot more fans will be out there."

Final Thoughts

After going to practice for the first time I have a good feeling about these Pirates; players were flying around with high intensity and looking well rested. The team seems to be working on themselves right now but, it's clear they have the necessary tools in place to start preparation for the Ragin' Cajuns when the time comes. Inside ECU Sports will be at practice again next week to keep you informed on how this Pirate team is preparing for their match-up with Louisiana-Lafayette.

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