Going into its contest against Memphis last Saturday, the Pirates found themselves at the midpoint of their season with a 3-3 record. ECU dominated throughout, on route to a 41-7 win, but what can we take out of a game that was played against a clearly inferior opponent?
Execution and proving the “experts” right
It’s one thing to be an eighteen point favorite and expected to win going away during the week and then actually do it when the ball is kicked off on Saturday. That’s exactly what the Pirates did, scoring touchdowns on each of its first two drives of the game and with the game still undecided going into the second half at 17-0, keeping their foot on the gas and scoring on four of its last five possessions of the game. It says a lot about a football team that beat the teams they are supposed to beat, in the fashion that they are supposed to, without playing down to the opposition’s skill level. A lot of the popular “BCS Busters” that now find themselves in BCS automatic qualifying conferences like Boise State and TCU did not get to that level solely off of marquee non-conference upsets, but rather years upon years of winning games they were supposed to against less-talented competition. ECU will get there if they continue to win these types of games in the way they did. Not to be forgotten, Memphis will soon be a member of the Big East.
Offense continues to grow
Saturday marked only the fifth collegiate start for redshirt sophomore quarterback Shane Carden. It didn’t show as Carden passed for a career-high five touchdown passes and 308 yards, which subsequently led to the Pirates’ quarterback winning Conference-USA’s offensive player of the week honors Monday. The biggest asset in Carden’s arsenal has to be the lethal combination between him and Justin Hardy, who had another monster game with six grabs for 137 yards, including two touchdowns. Expect to hear that duo called on a lot for the next couple years with both players only being sophomores. On the ground, Vintavious Cooper led the Pirates in rushing yet again with 96 yards on 16 carries. Carden, Hardy, and Cooper have been the Pirates’ three most consistent players on the offrensive side of the ball and game by game are getting progressively better.
Justin Jones emerges
It would be hard to talk about the offense and not talk about Justin Jones’ performance. Jones notched five receptions for 80 yards with three touchdowns. The Pirates took advantage of the size advantage they have with Jones, who stands at 6 feet, 8 inches tall. Even more important than his performance on Saturday, the offense may have found its No. 2 receiver behind Justin Hardy. Obviously with his size, Jones is a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators. Especially since at times, he can be found lined up as a tight end. Whether it be on the offensive line, in the slot, or on the outside, Jones keeps defenses honest and forces them to account for him, which opens up the Pirates’ other weapons on offense.