ECU accepts bid to play in Military Bowl

The Pirates' first postseason game in seven years will be played against an ACC opponent in Annapolis, Md. on December 27

Tyler Snead and the ECU football team finished the regular season with a 7-5 record, their first winning season since 2014 (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

The East Carolina football team clinched its first winning season in seven years with a thrilling last-second victory at Navy two weeks ago.

Next month, the Pirates will return to Annapolis for their first bowl appearance since the 2014 season.

Coach Mike Houston’s resurgent team announced Sunday that it has accepted an invitation to play in the Military Bowl on Monday, Dec. 27. ECU will play an ACC opponent to be named later in the nationally televised game at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.

Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. with television coverage on ESPN.

“We are ecstatic to invite East Carolina and expect to welcome a large contingent of Pirates fans to the National Capital region,” Military Bowl president & executive director Steve Beck said in a statement announcing the Pirates’ selection. “East Carolina is in the midst of a terrific season and we can sense the excitement surrounding the team. We look forward to a great bowl week and game.”

This will be ECU’s second trip to the Military Bowl. The first, a 51-20 loss to Maryland in 2010, was played at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., before a then-record crowd of 38,062.

The Pirates’ most recent postseason experience was a 28-20 loss to Florida in the Birmingham Bowl on Jan. 3, 2015.

“The Pirate football program is ascending under Mike Houston’s leadership,” ECU athletic director Jon Gilbert said. “We have all witnessed the growth and improvement over the past three years and today’s announcement is a culmination of the hard work, sacrifice and dedication of the young men in our football program. We are looking forward to Pirate Nation joining us on this Military Bowl experience.”

ECU finished its 2021 regular season with a 7-5 record after winning four of its final five games.

The Pirates feature a high-powered offense led by quarterback Holton Ahlers, who has passed for 3,126 yards and 18 touchdowns, and running back Keaton Mitchell, who has rushed for 1,131 yards and nine scores.

Defensively, ECU’s average of 26.3 points per game allowed is its best since 2015.

“I’m excited for the young men in our program along with our coaches, staff and administration who have worked tirelessly over the last three years for this opportunity,” Houston said. “Everybody involved with our program put in the time and commitment to make this a season to remember. This is a chance for our football program to face an ACC opponent within driving distance for many in Pirate Nation.”

Tickets for the game are on sale now. Proceeds from the Bowl benefit the USO and Patriot Point, the Military Bowl Foundation’s retreat for wounded, ill and injured service members, their families and caregivers.