East Carolina University Head Coach Ruffin McNeill and University of Maryland Head Coach Ralph Friedgen participated in the the Military Bowl "Meet The Coaches" press conference Tuesday. The Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman is December 29 at RFK Stadium (ESPN).
RALPH FRIEDGEN, University of Maryland Head Coach
"I want to thank Northrop Grumman and the Military Bowl for inviting us. We are big supporters of the USO. Our kids are constantly going over to Walter Reed [Army Medical Center]. We understand what we are playing for and we are very excited to be here.
"I have watched their [East Carolina University's] tape against Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Central Florida. They have an outstanding throwing game. They are aggressive on defense and were very competitive in all of those games.
"They have the eighth-ranked passing offense in the country right now, so we are in for a game.
"We know what a challenge we have. We know how hungry they [ECU] are and how excited they are to come up and play us. We have to be prepared. They are a very well coached team.
"Every game we have watched of ECU's, they have been in it all the way despite their record. We have a tough game ahead of us.
"We started practice yesterday. I gave the team off last week. I thought they needed to rest both mentally and physically and get caught up on their school work. We will practice Monday through Thursday of this week. We will practice Saturday and Sunday. I will give them off for
exams and then they will come back here on the 22nd and 23rd and practice the whole week up until game time.
"There are certain days I can't practice. I can't practice during exams. Normally, I can get in around 15 practices. This year it will be around 12.
"We are in an interesting situation. Our fans have traditionally traveled to bowl games on the East Coast. We sold the Orange Bowl out. We filled our allotments at the Peach Bowl and the Champs Sports Bowl. Attendance this year wasn't where we wanted it, but it was still a lot higher than it's been in the past.
"Our fans need to really come out and support us. We have a chance to send a message to people that didn't pick us for a bowl game that we can support a bowl game.
"East Carolina's fans are going to show up. If people want to support this football program they need to show up. We want to support the USO and make this a memorable experience. This is in our backyard."
RUFFIN MCNEILL, East Carolina University Head Coach
"I want to extend a thank you to the Military Bowl committee and Northrop Grumman for inviting us. We are very honored and privileged to be here. We are looking forward to the game. When we found out that we were playing Maryland, we got very excited.
"Coach Friedgen is doing a great job. What an honor to be here. To be involved in any of the post season games is an honor, but the tradition that the Military Bowl is bringing and what it stands for is very special.
"They [Maryland] have done a great job. I know a lot of guys on his [Freidgen] staff. They are great football coaches. His kids are very well coached and very well disciplined. We have our hands full.
"The ACC is competitive from top to bottom. The competition in the league is as competitive as anywhere in the country. To finish third in that league is a great compliment to what the team can do.
"This is my 30th year coaching and my 25th year at the college level. It is an honor to come back and lead your alma mater and be part of it. I have great pride and love for being a part of this program. This has been a blessing. Skip Holtz left the team in great shape. He left the program in great shape. Back to back conference championships. I was able to come in to a situation where we could be bowl eligible.
"Preparation is the biggest thing right now. We are dealing with finals right now and traveling.
"It's [Military Bowl] in the backyard of the Terrapin fans. For us, this is a ride up 95. A lot of our family and team members are from the Virginia, DC and Maryland areas. The locale provides a natural rivalry. We are on the east coast...I grew up in North Carolina, and I know the quality of football in that league [ACC]. I know the quality of coaches. We have a lot of tradition and pride. It is a great competition and great matchup.
"The biggest thing is that you can only control what you can control, and right now, I am the head coach of ECU. I love our university. I love our conference. The school, the fan support, the athletic department and its growth speaks for itself. I just want to be the best I possibly can be and put the best product on the field that we possibly can.
"It's been great to have a bowl game that is within driving distance for our fans and family. It's unique to have the support of the USO and the military.
"My dad not only was a coach, but he was in the military, so I am honored to be a part of the Military Bowl. We are very fortunate to be in post-season play, in our nation's capital and in the Military Bowl. I feel honored.
"We have had some tough times this season as a team. The support we have had has been tremendous. I'm glad their already registered and signed up for the game. We will have a lot of purple here in DC pretty soon."
STEVE BECK, Military Bowl Executive Director
"What we have here is two great football programs, two quality head coaches, two schools that have never met before, two coaches that are proud alumni of their schools and two coaches that love their players.
"Coach McNeill is like a celebrity in Greenville. I was just there for a basketball game and it was a great atmosphere and great to see Coach interact with all of the fans. They gave me a rousing welcome.
"You can see the passion and the energy of their [ECU] fans. They are very motivated to play Maryland. I think it is going to be a great matchup.
"Coach Friedgen has led his team in one of the biggest turn-around seasons which speaks to his great coaching abilities. He has also been named ACC Coach of the Year, just another sign of how talented he is at coaching this football team.
"This year, we are putting D.C. on the map as a college football destination with two great programs and two great teams.
"We're looking for a great crowd, and a crowd that's really going to enjoy the experience and what we have setup for them."
ERIK MOSES, Senior Vice President, Washington Convention and Sports Authority
"ECU already sold out the team hotel. We are expecting the Pirate nation to show up in full force.
"We are very excited to have the University of Maryland as a participant in this game. They are the premier college football program in the region and we are happy to have them this year.
"We expect Terrapin fans to turn out from around the region in full force, jump in their cars and drive to RFK Stadium.
"One of the main focuses of the Military Bowl is to add to the fervor of college football to the DC region. The game is played in the shadows of the White House, National Mall, Congress and that only happens here. We are expecting that to resonate far and wide.
"An essential component of this game is the involvement of the USO and we could not be happier with their willingness to be a part of the Military Bowl.
"We want to make sure that the teams and the student athletes have the best time in our nation's capital as they can have. We have had two good and very competitive bowl games in the previous two years and I think we are going to have a very competitive game this year."
RANDY BELOTE, Vice President of Strategic Communications, Northrop Grumman
"Northrop Grumman is delighted to sponsor the Military Bowl. We are thrilled that the teams are going to converge for this great event. The Military Bowl has a higher purpose; it supports the USO who does so much for the brave servicemen and women.
"Northrop Grumman is a longtime partner with USO and with our upcoming move to Washington, D.C. next year; we are proud to partner with the WCSA, the D.C. Bowl Committee and USO.
"On behalf of the 120,000 Northrop Grumman employees, we are proud to be associated with the Military Bowl and USO and look forward to kickoff on December 29."
ELAINE ROGERS, President, USO Metropolitan Washington
"On behalf of Sloan Gibson, President of USO, we are so excited to be with you, Northrop Grumman, the District, and the Bowl Committee. There is a great synergy going on here. Northrop Grumman has been a partner with us for 20 years. We just stuffed our two millionth care package and Northrop Grumman was the first partner of that program.
"This is exciting to be a part of this. What is exciting for us is that you are allowing us the opportunity to give back to our troops.
"We are going to have a great time during the whole bowl week. We are tremendously excited."