ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Vinatavious 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 touchdowns runs in the fourth quarter, a 31-yard burst with just under 10 minutes remaining.
East Carolina's Shane Carden threw for 273 yards and one TD 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 it 31-20. Cooper put it well out of reach, finding an opening off left tackle and racing 22 yards for his second TD.
Tyler Tettleton and Derrius Vick threw scoring passes for Ohio (7-6), which overcame an early two-touchdown deficit to lead 20-17 before Cooper put East Carolina back in front before an announced crowd of 20,053 at Tropicana Field.
Breon Allen also scored on a 2-yard run for East Carolina, which won six of its final seven games to finish with the second-most victories in school history.
Carden set the school record for single-season yards passing with a 13-yard throw to Isaiah Jones on the drive ended with Allen's TD, making it 14-0. He completed 29 of 45 passes while boosting his season total to 4,139 yards,
breaking Dominique Davis' record total for the Pirates.
Cooper ran for 90 yards in the opening quarter alone, becoming the third running back in East Carolina history to rush for 1,000 in consecutive seasons.
Justin Hardy, meanwhile, had eight receptions for 59 yards, setting a school record for yards receiving in a season. He finished with nine catches, giving him 114 receptions for 1,284 yards.
Ohio battled back after a slow start. Tettleton and Vick each threw a touchdown pass in a five-minute span to make it 14-all early in the second quarter.
Tettleton got the Bobcats going with a 26-yard completion to Daz' Patterson on a flea flicker, and then found Patterson for a 17-yard TD on the following play. Vick and Donte Foster combined for an 80-yard score on Ohio's next offensive play for the longest scoring pass in Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl history.
Foster finished with six catches for 160 yards, earning most valuable player honors for Ohio. Tettleton was 21 of 40 for 228 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
East Carolina rebounded from a triple-overtime loss to Tulane in October to win five of its final six regular-season games. Ohio stumbled in November losses to Buffalo, Bowling Green and Kent State before finishing with a 51-23 rout of Massachusetts that helped the Bobcats secure the trip to St. Petersburg. Ohio accepted the bid to the Beef 'O' Brady's bowl after the American Athletic Conference was unable to fulfill its bowl commitments.
Ball State lost to Central Florida in last year's game, making the trip when the Big East was unable to supply a team.
In denying Ohio a third straight bowl victory under coach Frank Solich, East Carolina stopped a four-game losing streak in bowl games.