Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The numbers that mattered in the Cajuns' second straight New Orleans Bowl victory.
48,828. Announced attendance. Good on you, ECU and (primarily) ULL fans. The atmosphere was exactly what you want from every bowl game, especially the early ones, and the Ragin' Cajuns have probably clinched a bid in every future New Orleans Bowl for which they have the requisite number of wins.
424. Total yards generated by Terrance Broadway's arm and legs. The four-star Houston transfer lived up to the hype in this one, completing 21 of 32 passes for 316 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a sack and carrying 14 times for 113 yards and a score. ULL lost its momentum a couple of times, and Broadway had to twice leave the game with minor injuries, but the Cajuns still racked up an as-advertised 591 yards of total offense and outlasted a fun, resilient East Carolina squad in the process.
100. Percentage of East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill's camera time in which he was encouraging somebody. McNeill might be the easiest coach in the country to like. He spent most of his game patting players on the helmet, making eye contact and pumping his fist to somebody, or speaking with clear admiration to an assistant. Play for him, and you play for one of the best father figures in the country.
In three years in Greenville, McNeill has gone just 19-19, an iffy performance for a program that had been to four consecutive bowl games when he arrived. On paper, the Pirates took a step backwards, from 90th in the 2011 F/+ rankings to 98th this season (their defense was fourth-worst among bowl teams, ahead of just Duke's, Central Michigan's and Nevada's), but they got hot late in the season, winning five of their last six to reach 8-4, and they did so with a two-deep that featured just 13 seniors and more than 35 underclassmen (not to mention one of the youngest offensive coordinators in the country in 29-year-old Lincoln Riley). Quarterback Shane Carden is a sophomore, star receiver Justin Hardy is a sophomore, the offensive line will return nine of its top 11 in 2013, and the defense will return seven starters. McNeill clearly isn't a guaranteed success at this point, but in what might be ECU's final season in Conference USA, he should have a pretty strong squad.
57. Percentage of Terrance Broadway's 21 completions that went for at least 13 yards. One-third of them went for at least 18. The Ragin' Cajuns' biggest advantage in this game seemingly shaped up in the battle between their receiving corps and ECU's secondary, which had hemorrhaged big plays all season. And in the end, this battle won them the game. Sure, the Cajun run game worked just fine, too -- running back Alonzo Harris gained 120 yards in 21 carries, giving them two 100-yard rushers for the game -- but their ability to dig out of holes with big pass plays was the difference in the game. Jamal Robinson, Javone Lawson and Harry Peoples combined to catch 13 of 18 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown, and Broadway was accurate enough to make ECU pay for every breakdown.
45. Points scored in the second quarter. Considering the final damage (1,012 yards, 77 points), one could assume this was a crazy shootout. And for all intents and purposes, it might have been. But a majority of the offensive damage was done in one 15-minute span that saw 58 percent of the game's points and 39 percent of its yards. In my game preview, I openly wondered if ECU could stop UL-Lafayette at all; the Pirates certainly didn't in the second quarter (20 plays, 228 yards, 24 points), but they kind of did for much of the rest of the game (57 plays, 363 yards, 19 points, four punts). It wasn't quite enough, but it was enough to make it a closer game than I anticipated.
This was a clean, well-played game played in front of a large, excitable crowd. (If only every bowl could be this way, especially those pitting two mid-majors.) It was also UL-Lafayette's second bowl win in as many seasons. Head coach Mark Hudspeth has done an absolutely incredible job in his short time in the land of Geaux Cajuns. If or when a major-conference school comes calling (it probably goes without saying that some probably already have), this program is not going to give him up without a fight.
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