By Nathan Summers
Wednesday, December 5, 20120
Not only do many East Carolina football players embrace being the underdog in a majority of their games, some of them don’t know how to play it any other way.
“We’re always the underdogs,” junior free safety Damon Magazu said of the Pirates, who will square off in the Dec. 22 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against Sun Belt representative Louisiana, which is favored by as many as 5.5 points this week.
In fact, Magazu said, being the underdog is largely what has defined the Pirates, who like their bowl opponent finished the regular season 8-4.
“I think that’s what a lot of players are here for,” said Magazu, who leads the team lead in tackles with 72, after Tuesday night’s practice. “That doesn’t bother us at all. If (oddsmakers) think some other team can beat us, that’s OK with us. We know what we can do.”
The team the Pirates will face inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome knows something about that too. The Ragin Cajuns took a 17-13 lead on Florida into the fourth quarter a few weeks ago in Gainesville before the Gators came to life for two fourth quarter touchdowns and eked out a win.
There is an unparalleled joy in succeeding against the odds, and both teams playing in New Orleans can speak to that.
“My personal belief on being an underdog in anything is I’ve always kind of liked it,” ECU left tackle Adhem Elsawi said. “You go in there and you beat them and everybody is shocked, and deep down inside you’re excited because you just showed people what you knew you were about to do all along.”
When the Pirates and Cajuns kick off at noon EST in the Crescent City, it will be evident why Louisiana was an early favorite.
The school formerly known as Louisiana-Lafayette is about a two-hour drive from the Superdome, and last year ULL trekked to the same bowl with a throng of fan support and upended San Diego State, 32-30.
Even though their red-and-black color scheme is different, the Ragin Cajuns and the Superdome’s New Orleans Saints even have fleur de lis logos in common, and the Pirates are prepared for a true road game even with their own sizable fan contingent expected.
“Obviously, everybody knows it’s going to be a home game for them,” senior linebacker Daniel Drake said of Louisiana. “Last year, I heard it was like 30,000 in red, so it’s going to be painted red in there. That’s what we like.”
Like his teammates, Drake welcomes the Pirates’ underdog status.
“When people respect you, sometimes you get content,” he said. “But we went 8-4, 7-1 in the conference and it’s a team that’s favored that’s in a lesser conference. That puts a fuel in me and I’m sure it does everybody else. I like it this way.”
ECU had 12 players earn Conference USA recognition Tuesday, led by wide receiver Justin Hardy’s placement on the league’s first-team offense. He was the only Pirate to receive first-team distinction.
Running back Vintavious Cooper and offensive lineman Will Simmons were on the second-team offense, and lineman Michael Brooks and linebacker Derrell Johnson were on the second-team defense. Hardy was the second-team punt returner.
The honorable mentions for East Carolina were Shane Carden (QB), Elsawi (OL), Lee Pegues (DL), Jeremy Grove (LB), Magazu (DB), Warren Harvey (K) and Trent Tignor (P).
Linebacker Montese Overton, a South Central High School product, was named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team.
Contact Nathan Summers at email@example.com or 252-329-9595.
via The Daily Reflector.