Pirates push past pesky Panthers

Published 10:23 pm Saturday, November 2, 2013

East Carolina's Justin Hardy tied school record for touchdown receptions during the Pirates 34-13 win over FIU on Saturday. (ECU Photo)

East Carolina’s Justin Hardy tied school record for touchdown receptions during the Pirates 34-13 win over FIU on Saturday. (ECU Photo)

It may have been a few days after Halloween, but the Pirates wore their Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde costumes on Saturday as a hot first quarter and some late trickery allowed East Carolina to mask subpar second and third quarters en route to topping Florida International 34-13 on Saturday in Miami.
East Carolina (6-2, 4-1 Conference USA) jumped out to a 14-3 advantage after the first quarter, but by the time the fourth started the Pirates were clinging to a 21-13 lead over the Panthers (1-7, 1-3 C-USA).
With East Carolina’s high-powered offense misfiring during the second and third quarters where it produced only seven points, head coach Ruffin McNeill reached down into his bag of tricks and pulled out an end-around pass that allowed wide receiver, and former high school quarterback, Justin Hardy to hit freshman wideout Isaiah Jones for a 34-yard touchdown pass to go up 28-13 with 9:11 left to play.
The Pirates tacked on its final score with 1:18 remaining as running back Vintavious Cooper (14 att, 48 yards) scored from two yards out, which was followed by a missed extra point by Warren Harvey.
Harvey had another tough outing as missed field goal attempts from 47 and 46 yards out.
With the win, East Carolina captured bowl eligibility for the second straight season and the third time in McNeill’s four years with the program.
ECU quarterback Shane Carden ended the game with 263 yards and three touchdowns on 23 for 35 passing, while Hardy caught five passes for 138 yards.
Hardy scored the first touchdown of the game on ECU’s first possession, as he took a short pass and scrambled 44 yards to pay dirt. With the score, Hardy tied East Carolina’s all-time touchdown reception mark of 22 held by Lance Lewis.
After a 49-yard field goal by FIU’s Austin Taylor, ECU’s DaQuan Barnes scored his first touchdown as a Pirate, turning a screen pass into a 25-yard score to go up 14-3 at the end of the first
ECU expanded that lead to 21-3 on a Carden two-yard pass to Cooper early in the second, but the Panthers responded with an 11-minute drive that ended with a Silas Spearman TD that cut the lead to 21-10, where it would stay until FIU tacked on another field goal midway through the third.
The Panthers would not score again as the Pirates defense, led by a spirited effort from OLB Montese Overton, shut down FIU for the final 15 minutes, while ECU tacked on 13 points.