What we learned: Florida International

Head coach Ruffin McNeill (Photo by Kay Jessick)

ECU became bowl eligible yesterday when they escaped Miami with a narrow victory over Florida International. Inside ECU Sports looks at what this game taught us about the team.

Aside from Ruffin McNeill's team becoming bowl-eligible for the third time in his four-year tenure, not much can be taken away from ECU's 34-13 win over FIU yesterday.

"It's a big first step (to become eligible for a bowl) and it means we are on the right track," ECU quarterback Shane Carden said. "But coming into this season, our vision, our goal was not just to get bowl eligible. We still have our goal of winning this conference. We just have to keep working and get after Tulsa next week."

After a three touchdown first half from its quarterback Shane Carden, ECU's offense stopped producing points for a quarter and a half. With that being said, when the plays had to be made, the Pirates made them.

"FIU did a good job," ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said. "This is the best they have played. I thought our kids came down here and we handled business. To win on the road is always hard. I was proud of our team. The kids kept fighting. What I like about this team is they have a great competitive nature about them."

If anything, this win taught fans and members of the media that ECU can play defense… a lot. FIU had the ball for 40 minutes, a total that doubled that of ECU's. This speaks to the superior level of talent that ECU had on its sideline.

If a team has the ball for half of the time another does and scores more than double the points, they're just plain better.

That's what ECU was coming into Saturday's contest, better across the board. After not taking advantage of opportunities, the Pirates finally closed the window on FIU.

Interestingly enough ECU didn't end the ‘upset talk' until 8:07 left in the game and it took a little bit of trickery.

Junior wide receiver Justin Hardy hit true freshman wide receiver Isaiah Jones on a reverse pass for the most important touchdown of the game. It spread the gap to 28-13 ECU.

"That was big," East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill said. "(Hardy) can throw it and has a good arm. It was a good play by Hardy and a great call by (offensive coordinator) Lincoln (Riley). It was a great job by Hardy of putting it on the money." The defense then did its part and shut out the Panthers for the rest of regulation.

While this game may have had some people reminiscing to the Tulane game earlier this season, ECU took care of business.

This win over FIU shows that while ECU was unable to overcome its history of playing down to lesser opponents, the Pirates have accomplished one goal of the 2013 season. ECU is now bowl-eligible for the third time in four seasons under Ruffin McNeill.

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