Cajuns, Pirates eagerly await New Orleans Bowl

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Even as quarterback

Terrance Broadway celebrated Louisiana-Lafayette's first bowl victory at

college football's

highest level one year ago, there was a part of him left

unfulfilled.

"All I was doing was watching, and that

hurt," said Broadway, who as a 2011 transfer from Houston could practice

but not play

last season. "I had practiced all year, ran the scout team, but

(did) not have the whole bowl experience. ... Now I have another

opportunity, and we're going to try to make the most of it."

That opportunity comes Saturday afternoon when the Ragin' Cajuns (8-4) of the Sun Belt Conference make their second straight

appearance in the New Orleans Bowl, this time against East Carolina (8-4) of Conference USA.

Broadway, a sophomore, was supposed to serve

as ULL's No. 2 QB this season behind senior Blaine Gautier. But when

Gautier

broke his throwing hand in late September, Broadway stepped in and

put up some of the best all-around numbers ever seen from

a Cajuns quarterback.

Broadway had 2,526 yards and 16 TDs passing to go with 661 yards and eight TDs rushing.

So while East Carolina's Ruffin McNeill sees himself as a defensive-minded coach, he concedes the New Orleans Bowl could turn

into a high-scoring shootout, with each team approaching its 2012 scoring average of more than 30 points.

"With both explosive offenses, there's a chance for that to happen," McNeill said. "In a game such as this, there'll be some

momentum shifts. So I think it's important for us to understand that."

The Pirates have demonstrated they can

respond when things go wrong both within a game and within a season. In

early October,

a 40-20 drubbing at Central Florida dropped ECU to 3-3. Since

then, the Pirates have won five of six, capped by a 65-59 victory

over Marshall in their regular-season finale.

"This group has really faced adversity well, handled it well, as well as any success," said McNeill, a former ECU player.

"I like that about this team."

He also likes the production he has gotten from sophomore quarterback Shane Carden, who like Broadway also can be a threat

to run, and new running back Vintavious Cooper, who was named Conference USA Newcomer of the Year after transferring from

Southwest Mississippi Community College.

Carden has passed for 2,838 yards and 21 TDs to go with eight touchdowns rushing. His top target has been Justin Hardy (1,046

yards receiving, 10 TDs). Cooper, who played quarterback in junior college, rushed for 1,030 yards and has averaged 114.4

yards rushing in his past five games, including a career-high 172 yards against Alabama-Birmingham.

"They can really score in bunches," Cajuns

coach Mark Hudspeth said. "That scares you because they've been in some

shootouts.

Their quarterback can make plays with his legs; he can throw the

ball down the field, and most important he can extend plays

and get out of the pocket when you think you have him bottled up."

Cooper said learning to read defenses as a

quarterback helped him identify weaknesses in opponents' alignments

before snaps

on which he knows he'll get the ball. Still, he figured his

adjustment to a new position at a higher level of football would

take longer than it did.

"I've had a crazy year," Cooper said. "I wouldn't expect what happened to me this year to happen."

His success helped land ECU back in the

Superdome, where the Pirates have already won once this season,

defeating Tulane 28-23.

Tulane was the one common opponent both New Orleans Bowl teams had

this season. The Ragin' Cajuns beat Tulane 41-13 in Lafayette,

which is a little more than a two-hour drive west of New Orleans

on Interstate 10.

Fans from Lafayette helped set a New Orleans Bowl attendance record of nearly 43,000 last year. All signs point to them coming

back in droves this season, making it a virtual road game for ECU.

"We heard about them winning last year and owning the Superdome," Cooper said. "I love playing on the road. Nothing like being

in front of 30,000 people who don't want you to do anything right. You look forward to being booed and you look forward to

scoring touchdowns to shut that crowd up."