ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Vintavious Cooper rushed for a career-best 198 yards, setting a Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl record and leading East Carolina to a 37-20 victory over Ohio on Monday.
The Pirates (10-3) grabbed the lead for good on the first of Cooper’s two touchdown runs in the fourth quarter, a 31-yard burst with 9:45 remaining.
East Carolina’s Shane Carden threw for 273 yards and one touchdown and also scored on a pass reception.
Cam Worthy caught an early 5-yard scoring pass from Carden, and then took a lateral from the junior quarterback and threw 14 yards back to Carden for a fourth-quarter TD that made the score 31-20 with 7:29 left. Cooper raced 22 yards for his second TD with 1:55 left.
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Cooper is the first East Carolina player to win a most valuable player award in a bowl game since Chris Johnson — who plays for the NFL Tennessee Titans — ran for 223 yards against Boise State in the 2007 Hawaii Bowl.
“It’s a great accomplishment and I have to really give it up to the guys up front and all the work they did. When I found out I was close to 100 yards after the first quarter, I told them and they got excited about it,” Cooper said. “I would never compare myself to Chris Johnson because I really admire CJ and I look up to CJ. He’s done so much for me. I’m just happy my name is next to his in any way.”
Tyler Tettleton and Derrius Vick threw scoring passes for Ohio (7-6), which overcame an early two-touchdown deficit to lead 20-17 until Cooper put East Carolina back in front before a crowd of 20,053 at Tropicana Field.
East Carolina won six of its final seven to finish with the second-most victories in school history.