BIRMINGHAM, AL – The East Carolina Pirates dominated Tuesday’s TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl 53-29 to earn the first bowl victory for ECU since 2013. After Coastal Carolina’s star quarterback, Grayson McCall exited the game after the second quarter due to injury, ECU began to pull away with the victory and ultimately sealed the deal with 2:14 remaining when Shane Calhoun scored a touchdown on a one-yard pass.
Battling the elements, but not as rough as practiced, was a significant factor in Tuesday’s game. At kick-off, the fans and players alike were met with 41-degree temps. As the game continued, the temps also dropped, reaching a low of 35 degrees. A few players told fi360news on the sideline during the bowl that they had practiced in the utter cold facing the south but that didn’t stop the two Carolina rivals from going at it.
The game started off solidly with East Carolina putting up three points on its first drive via a field goal. A bit later, after Coastal Carolina’s offense halted, East Carolina found the endzone to score the game’s first touchdown and successful extra point attempt putting ECU up 10-0 early.
Before ECU could get too far ahead, Coastal Carolina and McCall cut the deficit down to just three points and then took the lead for the first time in the game just before halftime. The only issue was, Coastal Carolina’s defense just couldn’t halt the Pirates’ offense as they went on to score two more times before heading back to the locker room at the half making it 24-14.
The second half would get interesting quickly as East Carolina would throw up a touchdown on their first-half drive, stretching ECU’s lead to 17 points with a 31-14 lead. Coastal Carolina would make some noise including a two-point conversion after Chanticleers player Jameson Tucker blocked a punt putting it in the hands of the team with time left remaining on the clock. After the two-point conversion, the score sat at 45-29 but that would be the final point CCU would put on the board.
East Carolina Senior Holton Ahlers was awarded the 2022 Fred Sington TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl’s Most Valuable Player trophy, a miniature version of the actual Bowl trophy. The award comes as no surprise as he threw for 300 yards, and five touchdowns, setting a Birmingham Bowl record for passing touchdowns as well as being responsible for those touchdowns. The Greenville, North Carolina native has five seasons at ECU under his belt with this season being his most successful. The 2022 TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl is Ahlers’ first bowl victory in his Bowl debut.
The victory for East Carolina is the retribution for their last Bowl appearance from the 2015 Birmingham Bowl where they narrowly lost to the Florida Gators, 28-20. It’s also retribution after the 2021 Military Bowl was canceled due to COVID-19. They had been selected to play Boston College.