Quarterback Shane Carden is a team captain for the Pirates; his play this season has been one of the main reasons the team has made it to this bowl game. This is Carden's first bowl game in his career, I asked him how the flight was and how it has been going since the team's arrival.
"It was a good trip down," Carden said. "We've been in Greenville for a while practicing against ourselves so it's good to finally touch down here in New Orleans; we have more practices in the coming days and I think we'll be ready for Saturday."
The Superdome's name speaks for itself; it is one of the nation's top football venues and the Pirates have been lucky enough to practice in it, and ultimately play their bowl game in it as well. When using an NFL facility like the Superdome there is always a chance of seeing players and coaches from an organization.
I asked Carden if he's seen any players and how the facilities have been. He responded, "I haven't seen any players since we got here; but it's been very cool to practice at the Superdome, so many great players have practiced here so it's a humbling experience."
With the bowl game approaching fast, the Pirates have their foot on the gas and have been preparing as much as they can. Louisiana-Lafayette is no slouch, so the team will need to be ready; I asked Carden what he expects from the Ragin' Cajun defense.
"I expect them to get after it," Carden responded. "They're a hard hitting team that doesn't let up; we have to bring our A-game and be ready to go, which I think we will be."
Jeremy Grove says the team is focused
Linebacker Jeremy Grove has made an impact since his freshman campaign; becoming the first Pirate to receive the Conference USA Freshman-of-the-Year award. Grove's play this season hasn't disappointed; he is second in total tackles on the season with 71, one less than defensive back Damon Magazu. Grove is a natural born leader; I asked him what the morale of the team has been since their arrival in New Orleans.
Grove responded, "We're excited; now that we're here and the game is coming up in a few days I can feel the intensity start to pick up in practice and we can't wait until Saturday."
New Orleans is one of America's great historical cities; and it is no secret that they know how to party. An atmosphere like this can be distracting to a team; with that being said, I asked Grove how the coaches have accounted for the temptation to party for the players.
"We have a curfew," Grove said. "Some police officers came and talked to us about being safe and certain places to avoid, but the team as a whole is focused on the game."
Bowl games are always fun, they offer teams a chance to play specific teams they may not have a chance to play otherwise, during the regular season. This is somewhat the case for the Pirates, as they haven't seen the Ragin' Cajuns in years. Louisiana-Lafayette leads the overall series 6-4, a record the Pirates are fired up to change. I asked Grove what he expects from the ULL offense, come kickoff.
"They're a pretty physical offense with a big offensive line," Grove said. "They have a big running back that isn't afraid of contact, and a dual threat quarterback who has some threats at wide receiver. We'll have our hands full and have a lot to stop, but we've had good practices all week so we're ready."
At this point it doesn't matter what I, or anybody says about this game. This comes down to two teams who seem to be evenly matched. The Pirates have a chance to give Coach Ruffin McNeill his first bowl win as their head coach. This is a huge game for the Pirate Nation; there have been rumors of a possible top twenty five ranking preseason for this squad next year, so a win in this bowl is something the Pirates need. When it comes down to it, I think the Pirates will pull out a close win. My prediction is 35-28 East Carolina; kickoff is at noon this Saturday. Be sure to tune-in and support Pirate football.