CFN Take: East Carolina Loses Shocker To UCF
East Carolina Pirates 2014 ...
Head Coach: Ruffin McNeill
2014 East Carolina
Dec. 4 UCF 32, at East Carolina 30
2014 Schedule |
Aug. 30 NC Central W 52-7
Sep. 6 at South Carolina L 33-23
Sep. 13 at Virginia Tech W 28-21
Sep. 20 North Carolina W 70-41
Sep. 27 OPEN DATE
Oct. 4 SMU W 45-24
Oct. 11 at South Florida W 28-17
Oct. 18 OPEN DATE
Oct. 23 Connecticut W 31-21
Nov. 1 at Temple L 20-10
Nov. 8 OPEN DATE
Nov. 13 at Cincinnati L 54-46
Nov. 22 Tulane W 34-6
Nov. 28 at Tulsa W 49-32
Dec. 6 UCF L 32-30
And You Care Because … UCF won a share of the American Athletic title with a 51-yard Hail Mary to Breshad Perriman that was more like a deep pass play than a true prayer – the ECU defensive backs misjudged the ball. The big play overcame a near-collapse, blowing a 26-9 fourth quarter lead after Shane Garden threw three touchdown passes for the Pirates in the fourth quarter including a 13-yarder to Justin Hardy with just over two minutes to play. All appeared lost for the Golden Knights, getting the ball back 65 yards away with ten seconds to go, and they got it done. ECU only managed a fumble recovery for a score and a Warren Harvey field goal in the first three quarters, but UCF couldn’t put it away with three Shawn Moffitt field goals and two short touchdown runs from William Stanback.
What Else? UCF RB William Stanback ran 24 times for 101 yards and two scores
- East Carolina QB Shane Carden completed 36-of-48 passes for 397 yards and three touchdowns with two picks
- East Carolina WR Justin Hardy caught 12 passes for 140 yards and a score
- Penalties; East Carolina 12 for 127 yards – UCF 6 for 40 yards
Game Rating: A-
Nov. 28 East Carolina 49, at Tulsa 32
And You Care Because … Just when it seemed like East Carolina was in trouble after Tulsa pulled within 28-25 late in the third on a 30-yard Keyarris Garrett touchdown catch, the scoring run came with Cory Hunter and Shane Carden each running for short scores, and Brandon Williams coming up with a pick six for a 21-point second half explosion. Tulsa got a blocked punt for a score and a five-yard D’Angelo Brewer touchdown run, but Carden came up with three touchdown passes with two to Bryce Williams from 15 and 12 yards out and a 16-yarder to Jimmy Williams before pulling away late.
What Else? Total yards: East Carolina 510 – Tulsa 388
- East Carolina QB Shane Carden completed 28-of-41 passes for 338 yards and four touchdowns with a pick, and ran nine times for nine yards and a touchdown
- Tulsa QB Dane Evans completed 15-of-32 passes for 199 yards and a score with two touchdowns and ran six times for 31 yards
- East Carolina WR Justin Hardy caught nine passes for 88 yards and a touchdown
Game Rating: C+
Nov. 22 at East Carolina 34, Tulane 6
And You Care Because … East Carolina didn’t have much of a problem, getting up 10-0 on the first of two Warren Harvey field goals and a Shane Carden four-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Jones. Breon Allen and Marquez Grayson added two short scoring runs, and Carden added an eight-yard touchdown run in the final seconds. Tulane’s only points came on Andrew DiRocco field goals from 33 and 40 yards out. ECU’s Justin Hardy broke the FBS record for most career receptions getting up to 355 after making nine grabs.
What Else? East Carolina QB Shane Carden completed 31-of-44 passes for 358 yards and a score, and ran six times for 12 yards and a touchdown
- Tulane QB Tanner Lee completed 24-of-43 passes for 301 yard and an interception
- East Carolina WR Cam Worthy caught seven passes for 115 yards, and Justin Hardy caught nine passes for 104 yards
- Third down conversions: Tulane 5-of-18 – East Carolina 2-of-11
Game Rating: C-
Nov. 13 at Cincinnati 54, East Carolina 46
And You Care Because … Andrew Gantz connected on a 47-yard field goal with 15 seconds to play to give the Bearcats a 48-46 lead and the win, but it took a wild rally to overcome a huge mistakes. UC went for it on 4th-and-2 from its own 33-yard line, but a fumbled pitch led to a Shane Carden touchdown run with just over a minute to play for a 46-45 lead, but the two-point conversion attempt failed. The Bearcats went 35 yards in 47 seconds to give Gantz the chance, and he made the most of it. Gunner Kiel threw four touchdown passes including a 66-yarder to Chris Moore and a 55-yard scoring play to Mekale McKay on the way to a 45-34 lead, but ECU fought back in the fourth quarter with a Carden seven-yard touchdown pass to Cam Worthy and the run to take the late lead.
What Else? Cincinnati QB Gunner Kiel completed 29-of-44 passes for 436 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions
- East Carolina QB Shane Carden completed 35-of-61 passes for 418 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for a score
- Total yards: Cincinnati 586 – East Carolina 572
- East Carolina WR Justin Hardy caught 15 passes for 181 yards and a score, and Mekale McKay caught nine passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns
Game Rating: A-
Nov. 1 at Temple 20, East Carolina 10
And You Care Because … The Owls shocked the Pirates with a 63-yard fumble return for a score from Tavon Young and a one-yard scoring dash from Kenneth Harper in the first quarter, and put it away on two-yard Harper run in the third. East Carolina managed a 39-yard Warren Harvey field goal in the second quarter, but didn’t get into the end zone until just over two minutes to play on a two-yard Marquez Grayson run. The Pirates were a disaster, losing five fumbles and committing 12 penalties.
What Else? Total yards: East Carolina 428 – Temple 135
- East Carolina QB Shane Carden completed 24-of-41 passes for 217 yards
- Temple QB P.J. Walker completed 7-of-19 passes for 70 yards and ran 11 times for eight yards
- East Carolina RB Chris Hairston ran 21 times for 153 yards
Game Rating: C-
Oct. 23 at East Carolina 31, Connecticut 21
And You Care Because … The Pirates won, but it was a struggle. Shane Carden threw two first quarter touchdown passes and ECU looked like it was on its way to a rout, but UConn kept fighting back as Chandler Whitmer ran for a one-yard score and found Noel Thomas on a 32-yard touchdown pass to tie it. The Huskies always seemed to have an answer, coming back from a one-yard scoring run from ECU’s Breon Allen with a 88-yard Whitmer pass play to Deshon Foxx to tie it. It was all ECU in the fourth quarter with a field goal and a nine-yard Allen run to put it away.
What Else? East Carolina QB Shane Carden completed 38-of-64 passes for 445 yards and two touchdowns with an interception and ran nine times for 32 yards
- Penalties: UConn 12 for 119 yards – East Carolina 11 for 105 yards
- East Carolina WR Justin Hardy caught 14 passes for 186 yards and a score
- Connecticut QB Chandler Whitmer completed 18-of-30 passes for 303 yards and two scores with a pick, and ran seven times for 35 yards and a touchdown
Game Rating: B
Oct. 11 East Carolina 28, at USF 17
And You Care Because … The Pirates overcame a sluggish start to roar back in the second half, scoring 21 unanswered points with Marquez Grayson and Breon Allen each running for touchdowns and Anthony Scott putting the game away on a 20-yard dash. USF got up on a 51-yard Andre Davis touchdown catch in the first, and a 13-yard Marlon Mack run in the second, but Shane Carden found Breon Allen for a 35-yard score to stay alive going into the locker room. Then the offense woke up.
What Else? Penalties: East Carolina 12 for 148 yards – USF 8 for 59 yards
- East Carolina QB Shane Carden completed 24-of-33 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown with an interception
- East Carolina WR Justin Hardy caught ten passes for 114 yards
- USF QB Mike White completed 21-of-41 passes for 257 yards and a touchdown with an interception
Game Rating: B-
Oct. 4 at East Carolina 45, SMU 24
And You Care Because … Shane Carden and Justin Hardy connected three times on touchdown plays from nine, two and 30 yards out in the first half, and Anthony Scott and Chris Hairston ran four touchdowns to keep SMU at arm’s length. The Mustang offense actually worked a little bit, with Darius Joseph catching touchdown passes from seven and nine yards out, and Prescott Line ran for a two-yard score.
What Else? East Carolina QB Shane Carden completed 31-of-41 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns, and ran seven times for 47 yards
- SMU QB Garrett Krstich completed 42-of-67 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns with an interception
- East Carolina WR Isaiah Jones caught nine passes for 130 yards and a score, and Justin Hardy caught eight passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns
- SMU WR Darius Joseph caught 13 passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns
Game Rating: B-
Sept. 20 East Carolina 70, North Carolina 41
And You Care Because … East Carolina delivered quite an encore performance after beating Virginia Tech a week ago. QB Shane Carden threw for 438 yards and four touchdowns, handing Carolina its worst defensive performance in school history. The Tar Heels actually grabbed a lead early in the second quarter, but the Pirates pulled away for good with four unanswered touchdowns, including one on a 46-yard Zeek Bigger interception return of a Marquise Williams pass.
What Else? It might be time for Carden to begin getting some Heisman attention. He carved up the Carolina secondary, despite being without one of this year’s top receivers, Cam Worthy.
- This was the kind of disastrous performance that gets defensive assistants fired. The Tar Heels did nothing to get Carden out of his rhythm, while allowing an unimaginable 40 first downs.
- In Worthy’s place, East Carolina got huge efforts from RB Breon Allen, who rushed for 211 yards and two scores, and WR Trevon Brown. Brown is just a true freshman, yet he caught five passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
- In an oddity, three different Tar Heels threw touchdown passes, yet the starter, Williams, wasn’t one of them. Backup QB Mitch Trubisky, WR Ryan Switzer and P Tommy Hibbard each tossed a scoring strike.
Game Rating: B+
Sept. 13 East Carolina 28, at Virginia Tech 21
And You Care Because … East Carolina got up to a 21-0 first quarter lead, but needed a one-yard Shane Carden run with 16 seconds to play to pull off the win. Carden threw three touchdown passes to three different receivers to cap off three long drives for the big lead, but Virginia Tech woke up and came back with 21 straight points on three Michael Brewer touchdown passes including two to Isaiah Ford from 21 and 15 yards out. ECU had one last drive, and Carden came through with two long pass plays to Cam Worthy, and helped by two penalties, to down to the one for his game-winning score.
What Else? Virginia Tech’s defense was ripped apart early, but it made the changes needed and allowed the offense to get back in the game. It wasn’t enough, but the Hokie offense ended up holding on to the ball for 36:40 with Michael Brewer throwing 56 times for 298 yards and three scores with two picks.
- East Carolina QB Shane Carden was magnificent early and late, completing 23-of-47 passes for 427 yards and three scores, and running for 13 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
- ECU star WR Justin Hardy caught four passes for 47 yards. Cam Worthy was the star, catching six passes for 224 yards including the two key plays on the game-winning drive.
- East Carolina stalled way too often because of penalties. The team committed 13 for 114 yards.
Game Rating: A-
Sept. 6 at South Carolina 33, East Carolina 23
And You Care Because … South Carolina held a 13-7 first half lead on two Warren Harvey field goals and a Chris Hairston ten-yard touchdown run, but Mike Davis ran well for the Gamecocks with two touchdowns, and Elliott Fry hit all four of his field goal attempts to keep the Pirates just out of reach. Dylan Thompson’s 16-yard touchdown pass to K.J. Brent helped USC pull away in the third, but ECU kept coming with Shane Carden pulling the Pirates to within seven in the fourth on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Cam Worthy. Fry’s 20-yard field goal finally put the game away.
What Else? This was Steve Spurrier’s 200th win as an SEC head coach.
- South Carolina controlled the game, holding on to the ball for over 36 minutes, but ECU outgained the Gamecocks 453 yards to 441.
- ECU QB Shane Carden completed 32-of-46 passes for 321 yards and a score with two picks, and Justin Hardy caught 11 passes for 133 yards.
- USC RB Mike Davis ran 18 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
Game Rating: B
Aug. 30 at East Carolina 52, North Carolina Central 7
And You Care Because … NC Central started out the scoring on a 31-yard fumble return for a score from C.J. Moore, and then it was all East Carolina as Justin Hardy threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Jones and caught two of Shane Carden’s three touchdown passes. Jones finished with ten catches for 150 yards and a score, and Carden completed 26-of-37 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns. NCCU managed just 174 yards of total offense and was tagged for ten penalties for 91 yards.
Game Rating: D
You like us. You really like us.
The Pirates finally got their wish, a suitor from another league that would help the program jump ship out of Conference USA. Unfortunately, the Big East no longer exists, and the resulting American Athletic Conference is sort of a rich-man’s Conference USA after all. East Carolina sets sail to its new league in 2014, with a chance to pick up a little more TV exposure, while showcasing one of the nation’s nine offenses that averaged more than 40 points a game in 2013.
East Carolina is almost all the way back to the time when Skip Holtz led the program to back-to-back Conference USA championships in 2008 and 2009. It’s been a tough climb for head coach Ruffin McNeill, who has rekindled that title-contending feel with an 18-8 mark over the last two seasons.
A year ago, the Pirates went 10-3, including signature routs of North Carolina and NC State, in-state rivals out of the ACC. ECU finished the year with a 37-20 win over Ohio in the Beef `O' Brady's Bowl, the consolation prize for losing to Marshall on Nov. 29 in the de facto East Division title game.
The face of the Pirates for one final season will be QB Shane Carden, who’s moxie and leadership have become the identity of the program. With Carden at the controls, and the Justin Hardy-led receiving corps gradually aging, ECU will once again light up scoreboards this fall. But can the team stop enough opponents to contend in a stronger league?
East Carolina can survive shootouts, but that’s a dicey way to go through a season. The caliber of opponents is improving in 2014, which ought to make the defensive backs quake with concern. ECU ranked 13th in Conference USA pass defense last year, when the secondary was littered with veterans. Now that three starters are gone, the staff must retool from the ground up. Making matters worse, the pass rush is a question mark. Derrell Johnson and Lee Pegues have graduated, and top DE Terrell Stanley is lost for the year following a serious car accident in February. Someone must step up in 2014 and make opposing passers uncomfortable in the pocket.
East Carolina is following former Conference USA rival UCF into the American. Now the Pirates want to be this year’s version of UCF, capturing a title in their league debut. They’ve got momentum and a superstar quarterback, the ingredients for another exciting season of points and prosperity in G-Vegas.
What to watch for on offense: The emergence of the young skill players. Shane Carden will connect through the air with Justin Hardy at least 100 times this fall. But who’s going to take heat off the pitch-and-catch combo? After playing significant roles as true freshman in 2013, receivers Davon Grayson and Isaiah Jones are poised for expanded roles and greater overall consistency. If Hardy is less of the offensive focus in 2014, it becomes that much tougher to shut down Carden for opposing defenses.
What to watch for on defense: The fleshing out of the defensive backfield. The Pirates are determined to improve against the pass, but how can it happen with three new starters in the lineup? Detric Allen is set at one cornerback spot, but the staff needs replacements for all-star FS Damon Magazu, SS Chip Thompson and CB Adonis Armstrong. Junior Josh Hawkins is expected to land the other corner job, but overall depth and the safety positions could dog the D all season long.
This team will be far better if … the pressure continues on defense. The Pirates gave up a lot of yards in 2013, but they compensated with big plays in the form of sacks and turnovers. That model for success must continue this fall, even though LB Derrell Johnson, DE Lee Pegues and FS Damon Magazu are gone. While a decent foundation of defenders is back, East Carolina needs a couple of first-time starters to relieve pressure from a shaky secondary that requires help from the pass rush.
The Schedule: The non-conference schedule will have its share of big chances, but it could also mean a rough start if the Pirates can't pull off a few big upsets. The tune-up against North Carolina Central is a must to get ready for trips to South Carolina and Virginia Tech, but the North Carolina game is in Greenville. And then starts life in the American
Athletic with SMU comiing to town, but three of the next four games are on the
road going to South Florida and Cincinnati, and the Tulsa game in late November
is on the road. However, the big showdown with defending champion and former
Conference USA foe UCF is at home.
Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Shane Carden. East Carolina’s Air Raid goes from a theory in the mind of offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to on-field execution because of Carden’s play. The quarterback is a perfect fit for the system, quickly and accurately distributing the ball to his playmakers, particularly in the red zone. However, Carden isn’t just one of the most prolific passers to ever where a Pirate uniform. He’s also the emotional leader of a program ready to take the American by storm.
Best Defensive Player: Junior LB Zeek Bigger. In a short time, Bigger has come a long way for the Pirates. After starting 2013 as a reserve, he’ll begin this season as arguably the Pirates’ best defensive player. Bigger is East Carolina’s returning leader in tackles and passes defended, testament to his range and versatility. At 6-2 and 228 pounds, he has the size and the range that the staff prefers in its linebackers. And now that he has a full season of experience in the vault, he’s poised to become an important leader on this side of the ball.
Key player to a successful season: Senior RB Breon Allen. Yeah, the Air Raid is a pass-first offense. But East Carolina becomes markedly tougher to stop when that pass attack is complemented by a consistent ground game. While Carden and Hardy make most of the headlines, RB Vintavious Cooper accounted for 14 touchdowns and 1,609 yards from scrimmage a season ago. Allen showed enough in his debut out of Snow (UT) College to pick up where Copper left off, both as a shifty runner and a passing game safety valve.
The season will be a success if ... the Pirates win at least eight games. East Carolina is capable of winning the American, but setting the bar at a title this soon is aggressive. The program will once again get a crack at making non-conference noise with three consecutive games against South Carolina, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. On the conference front, it only has one really tough road game, the Nov. 15 trip to Nippert Stadium to face Cincinnati. The Pirates won’t be intimidated by a league that looks an awful lot like the one it just left.
Key game: Dec. 4 vs. UCF. At least for now, UCF is carrying the American banner. East Carolina hopes to switch places, with a nationally-televised crowd in attendance. There are three or four schools that have a legitimate shot of adding to the trophy case in 2014. The Knights and the Pirates are two of them. The Dowdy-Ficklen crowd will be juiced for a Thursday night game in December regardless of what’s hanging in the balance.
2013 Fun Stats:
- Time of possession: East Carolina 31:12 – Opponents 28:48
- Interceptions thrown: East Carolina 14 – Opponents 10
- Red zone touchdown %: East Carolina 72% - Opponents 62%
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