Pirates ground Eagles

Published 8:58 am Sunday, August 31, 2014

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS Running back Breon Allen splits two defenders and works his way into the end zone for six.

Running back Breon Allen splits two defenders and works his way into the end zone for six.

ECU defeats North Carolina Central in opener


For The Washington Daily News


GREENVILLE — ECU took care of business Saturday night against a much weaker opponent in North Carolina Central. After a first quarter scoop-and-score from NC Central defensive back C.J. Moore, the Pirates rallied and scored 52 unanswered points to defeat the Eagles, 52-7 in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

The ECU offense wasn’t flawless as many expected them to be, but it was able to shake off some early rust and put together an impressive stat line by the end of the night. Quarterback Shane Carden finished his night after three quarters of work, exiting with a 38-7 lead and passing the baton to freshman Kurt Benkert. Carden was 26-for-37 on the night with 283 yards and three touchdowns to zero interceptions (although NC Central dropped a couple potential picks).

Almost half of Carden’s yardage was distributed to inside receiver Isaiah Jones, who finished with a career-high ten catches for 150 yards.

The play of the game happened with 3:27 seconds left in the first quarter. Trailing 7-3 early, ECU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley reached into his back of tricks as All-Conference wideout Justin Hardy took a reverse right and tossed a 41-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Isaiah Jones to give the Pirates the lead.

“That was probably the most nerve-racking catch I’ve ever made,” said Jones after the game. “I was wide open and it floated up there for a while.”

Hardy (eight catches for 87 yards) finished the night with three total touchdowns —one passing and two more receiving from Carden. The senior broke Cowboys’ receiver Dwayne Harris’s ECU career receptions mark of 268 with a 17-yard grab in the second quarter. He finished the night at 274. During the game, Harris tweeted at Hardy, “I’m still the best all time. Remember that.” After the contest, Hardy explained that it was all in good fun. “Dwayne is a great guy. He was here my freshman year. It feels great to break the record.”

Washington’s own Jimmy Williams also made the most of his limited action on the night, hauling in three receptions for 43 yards, including a 22-yarder.

The ECU defense headed into the night with arguably more question marks than the offense, but it was the former that stole the show. The Pirates finished the night only allowing 174 total yards. They also pitched a shutout, as the only touchdown was generated by the Eagles defense. The ECU defensive unit was impressive as a whole, but the linebackers had a field day flying all over the field making plays on the ball. Junior captain Zeek Bigger, among others, had a huge night with 11 tackles.

“This is one of the fastest units I’ve been with,” said Bigger. “I look at some of the guys and say, ‘How did you get to that tackle before I did?’ Everybody puts in the work in the film room, so that helps us to be faster than we really are.”

ECU will truly put its team speed to the test next Saturday, as they prepare for a trip to Columbia, S.C. to take on the Gamecocks. The game will be broadcasted from Williams-Brice Stadium on ESPNU at 7 p.m.