by Mike Potter
For East Carolina (8-2) it has all been a pretty good dream. The Pirates already have a 55-31 rout at UNC under their belts, and look for the UNC-N.C. State sweep for the first time in school history.
But for N.C. State (3-7) it’s about ending a bad season on a good note. In Dave Doeren’s first season at the helm the Wolfpack is 0-7 in the ACC, on a six-game losing streak, and has to win today to avoid losing to all four FBS opponents in the state in the same season for the first time ever.
And it turns out to be a good day for the Pirates and a tough one for the Wolfpack, as ECU rolls 42-28.
ECU scores on its first possession, going 75 yards in seven plays with Shane Carden connecting with Justin Hardy from three yards out. Warren Harvey adds the boot at 11:07.
State responds with a 14-play, 76-yard drive ending in a four-yard pass from Brandon Mitchell to Tony Creecy. Niklas Sade converts at 3:09.
The Pirates take the lead again at 10:56 of the second, as Carden hits Bryce Williams all alone on the left side of the end zone from five yards out. Harvey’s boot punctuates the 11-play, 84-yard march at 10:56.
It goes to 21-7 at 5:58 as Carden takes it in himself to finish a 10-play, 77-yard march and Harvey adds the boot.
State gets a chance to cut into the lead late in the half, but Sade’s 38-yard field goal is wide left.
The Pirates take it to 28-7 with 8:23 left in the third on a one-yard Carden plunge. Harvey’s boot punctuates the 14-play, 67-yard excursion.
And it goes to 35-7 on a three-yard Breon Allen run and Harvey’s kick with 5:40 left in the third.
State cuts it to 35-14 on a two-yard Jumichael Ramos pass from Mitchell, but ECU makes it 42-14 with 1:56 left on Carden’s 25-yard connection with Lance Ray.
The Wolfpack scores with 51 seconds left on a 30-yard pass from Mitchell to Rashard Smith, and following an onside kick Mitchell connects with Ramos again from five yards out.
Carden completes 23 of 30 passes for 255 yards and three TDs with the two rushing scores. Vintavious Cooper rushes 22 times for 148 yards and catches two passes for 16 for the Pirates, and Hardy catches eight for 83 yards and a TD plus one 20-yard pass completion.
Mitchell finishes with his best statistical game, completing 28 of 44 for 312 yards and four TDs while rushing 10 times for 30 yards. Shadrach Thornton carries 20 times for 66 yards for State, while Smith catches seven passes for 104 and the TD and Ramos five for 38 and the two TDs.
They said it:
ECU coach Ruffin McNeill: “We’ve really had the confidence all season and believed in ourselves. We believe we can win every game and we believe in each other. We believe in hard work. We don’t believe in the easy way. We believe in the right way and that’s the way we’re going to do it. These guys love and trust one another.
Doeren: “We played until the end and I’m proud of our guys for that. We didn’t make enough plays defensively or offensively in the first half, and when we came alive in the fourth quarter unfortunately it was a little too late.”
Carden: “It means a lot to Pirate Nation to have beaten (UNC and State), I know that. After this year’s over maybe we can think about it more. But right now we’ve got to move on.”
Hardy: “I just thank ECU for getting me here. I kind of have a chip on my shoulder sometimes. The in-state rivalries we have are all big for the program.”
What does it all mean?
That the Pirates are on track for one of the greatest seasons in school history, while the Wolfpack may finish one of its worst.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Carden’s first TD run.
State: Lost 7.
ECU: Won 5.
State leads 16-12.
ECU at Marshall, Nov. 30, noon.
State vs. Maryland, Nov. 30, 12:30 p.m.