ST. PETERSBURG — The East Carolina Pirates and Ohio University Bobcats have not played in a Florida bowl game since the 1960s.
So the thought of spending some time on Florida’s Gulf Coast, on the week before Christmas, sounded pretty appealing to both schools.
Officials from East Carolina (9-3) and Ohio (7-5) were delighted to accept bids to the Dec. 23 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl at Tropicana Field.
East Carolina, which went 6-2 in Conference USA while posting nonconference victories against North Carolina and N.C. State, is making its 19th bowl appearance and third under coach Ruffin McNeil, who replaced Skip Holtz in 2010.
Ohio, a Mid-American Conference team that was tabbed to replace a choice from the American Athletic Conference, which couldn’t fill its quota, is making its fifth consecutive postseason appearance under coach Frank Solich, formerly of Nebraska.
“The location of this bowl in St. Petersburg is a tremendous destination for our players,’’ Solich said. “We couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity.’’
The Bobcats, who were 4-4 in their league and already have defeated two C-USA schools (North Texas, Marshall) this season, are led by senior quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who owns 27 school records.
Meanwhile, the Pirates average 40.4 points per game. Junior quarterback Shane Carden has accounted for 42 touchdowns — 32 passing, 10 rushing — and is among the top five nationally in four categories, including No. 1 in completion percentage.
“East Carolina is a team that’s fun to watch and has a great reputation of traveling many fans to their bowl games,’’ Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl executive director Brett Dulaney said. “Ohio University football has a 100-year-plus tradition. So we think we’ve got a great matchup here.’’
The Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl is in its sixth year. The University of South Florida Bulls won the inaugural game in 2008 and the University of Central Florida Knights, headed to this season’s Fiesta Bowl, captured last season’s contest.