Late in the third quarter of Saturday’s game against the Memphis Tigers, ECU quarterback Shane Carden threw touchdown passes to Justin Hardy and Justin Jones on consecutive drives to cap an impressive 17-point third quarter. The Pirates (4-3, 3-1) used that momentum to go on and dominate the Tigers, 41-7, in Greenville.
“All around we came together as a unit and played really well in the third quarter,” said Carden. “When everyone is playing well that just makes my job easier.”
Carden (25-33 for 308 yards, 5 TDs) threw his first touchdown of the third quarter to Hardy on an 11-yard throw, who found a hole in the coverage and was wide open in the end zone. Following a Memphis punt, the next Pirate drive ended with Jones’s 14-yard score, the second of three touchdowns on the night for Jones.
Jones caught his third touchdown, a four-yard jump ball in the corner of the end zone, after a Memphis fumble to start the scoring in the fourth quarter. Down 41-0, Memphis responded by driving 76 yards in nine plays and scoring on a three-yard run by Jai Steib to reach the games final points total.
Hardy finished the game with six catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns (his first multi-touchdown game of his career). Jones finished with five catches for 80 yards and three touchdowns.
“Me and [Justin] Jones are roommates, and when we stay at the hotels we talk a lot,” said Hardy. “Our whole mentality is that we have to be the best duo in college football.”
The man who seems to be benefiting the most is Carden, who put together a career night. His five passing touchdowns on the night were one more than he had in his career before the game (4) and this was his first game throwing for over 300 yards as a Pirate.
For the second week in a row, Carden got off to a fast start in the first quarter. On the third play of the game he hit Hardy for a 67-yard catch-and-run touchdown. He followed that with a 39-yard touchdown toss to Jones, who made a leaping grab as he crossed the goal line. Carden went 9-11 for 176 yards (and the two TDs) in the first quarter and has gone 17-20 for 301 and 3 TDs in the first quarter over the last two weeks.
The only scoring of the second quarter came on a 37-yard field goal by ECU’s Warren Harvey to put the Pirates up 17-0 at halftime. Harvey added a 45-yard field goal in the third quarter to put him at 8-12 on the year (he missed his first three attempts of the season).
The play of the Pirates defense throughout the game was outstanding. ECU’s defense held the Tigers to 281 yards on offense, forcing two fumbles and sacking their quarterback three times. Gabriel Woullard led the team with 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two tackles for losses.
“We were really preaching strong offense and defense and really playing both sides of the ball. And I was very, very happy with the win,” said ECU Head Coach Ruffin McNeill. “We talked about making sure we get better and I thought we did a good job. I’m really proud of our guys for accomplishing that goal.”
ECU travels to Birmingham, Ala. next weekend to take on the UAB Blazers (1-5, 0-2). Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m.