Pirates roll past HurricanePublished 9:37pm Saturday, November 9, 2013
GREENVILLE — Shane Carden and Justin Hardy’s assault on the East Carolina record book continued on Saturday as the duo helped the Pirates down Tulsa 58-24 to win their third straight game.
It was a strong all-around performance for East Carolina (7-2, 5-1 C-USA) as five different offensive players reached the end zone and corner back DaShaun Amos returned an interception 100 yards for a score as time expired in the fourth to put the finishing touches on Tulsa (2-7, 1-4 C-USA).
“I’m very happy about the win,” East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill said. “I thought defensively we played very well.”
The offense wasn’t too bad either.
Pirates junior quarterback Shane Carden accounted for a school-record seven touchdowns, as he threw for five scores and ran for two more to lead East Carolina over the defending Conference USA champion Hurricane.
Carden finished the game completing 34 of his 50 attempts for 384 yards and credited offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s Air Raid system for his record-setting day.
“I think that just speaks to this offense and the trust we have in each other,” Carden said. “Coach Riley, and the way he prepares us, gives us opportunities each week to be successful.”
Hardy caught 10 Carden passes for 99 yards and a touchdown, giving him an even 1,000 receiving yards for the season to make him the first player in ECU history to reach that mark twice in his career.
Hardy also broke the school’s mark for career touchdown receptions in the third quarter when he hauled in a 5-yard scoring pass that put the team up 28-10.
With the catch, the former walk-on broke Lance Lewis’ mark of 23 touchdown receptions.
“It’s great to be on top of that list,” Hardy said. “Especially going through what I had to go through to get here. A lot of hard work has paid off.”
Freshman wide receiver Isaiah Jones’ breakout year continued as he caught eight passes for a career-high 104 yards and two touchdowns.
While the offensive fireworks display was impressive, the pivotal play of the game was turned in by sophomore inside linebacker Zeek Bigger, whose second quarter interception turned the tide against Tulsa.
Bigger stepped in front of a Dane Evans (14-33-2, 142 yards, 1 TD) pass intended for Keevan Lucas near midfield and returned it 29 yards to the Tulsa 18.
One play later, Carden connected with Jones for an 18-yard touchdown pass that put the Pirates up 21-10 with a little over a minute left in the first half.
“It was a play that we were working on (defending) all week in practice that we called ‘West Coast three-step,’” Bigger said. “Basically, I was just watching the wide receiver make a move inside and go back out and I was able to get underneath the pass.”
The Pirates went up 28-10 on Hardy’s touchdown reception, before Tulsa countered with a 15-yard screen pass to running back Trey Watts for a touchdown that cut the deficit to 28-17 with 5:19 remaining in the third.
The Hurricane would get no closer, as the Pirates scored 14 unanswered points to push their lead to 42-17.
Watts rushed for 104 yards and one touchdown on 20 attempts in the first half, but was limited to only 16 yards in the second half.
The Pirates padded their lead when Carden threw a 25-yard scoring strike to Jones with 1:46 left in the third, before the junior QB rushed for his second TD of the day at the start of the fourth.
Carden’s last touchdown pass of the evening came with 4:20 left in the fourth as he hit tight end Bryce Williams for a 5-yard TD pass.