ECUs Shane Carden prepares to hand off to Vintavious Cooper as Adhem Elsawi blocks.
  • Photo by Chris Baird
  • ECU’s Shane Carden prepares to hand off to Vintavious Cooper as Adhem Elsawi blocks.

KENAN STADIUM/CHAPEL HILL UNC comes into its second home game this season against a Conference USA opponent, and the Tar Heels are badly in need of a win.

These visitors are in no mood to let them get one.

East Carolina (2-1) comes in for the sun-splashed in-state rivalry game, in a series which has been contested every once in a while since 1972. This is the seventh meeting since 1981.

The Tar Heels (1-2), who lead the series 11-2-1 (the 2009 UNC win was vacated), have beaten only Middle Tennessee State of CUSA this season with losses at South Carolina and Georgia Tech.

It turns out to be a very bad day for the Tar Heels and the best in Ruffin McNeill’s tenure as ECU head coach, as the Pirates run a ridiculous 101 plays in a 55-31 rout.


The Pirates strike on their first possession, with Shane Carden hitting Justin Hardy from six yards out to complete an

UNCs T.J. Thorpe hauls in a big catch.

11-play, 73-yard drive at 11:28. Warren Harvey converts.

ECU doubles the lead at 3:06 on Carden’s seven-yard connection with Lance Ray to finish an eight-play, 54-yard excursion. Harvey’s try is again successful.

The Tar Heels get on the board with 14:48 left in the half on a 21-yard Thomas Moore field goal.

The Pirates then take it to 21-3 on a one-yard Carden run followed by Harvey’s kick, ending a six-play, 79-yard drive at 10:05.

UNC strikes with some trickery at 6:33 as Quinshad Davis hits a wide-open T.J. Thorpe on a 33-yard halfback pass down the right sideline. Moore punctuates the 11-play, 85-yard march.

But the Pirates respond again, going 76 yards in 13 plays with Carden going in from a yard out at 1:48 and Harvey’s boot making it 28-10.

And they turn it into a rout on their first possession of the second half, going 55 yards in seven plays with Chris Hairston going in from three yards out and Harvey converting at 11:38.

UNC gets on the board again at 9:36 of the third, as Bryn Renner hits Bug Howard from three yards out and Moore converts to make it 35-17.

But the Pirates respond at 6:16 with another one-yard scoring plunge from Carden ending an 11-play, 75-yard march and Harvey adding the boot.

UNC cuts it back to 18 on a 23-yard pass from Renner to Nic Platt to end a five-play, 50-yard march with Moore converting at 4:41.

But Harvey kicks a 32-yard field goal to make it 45-24 with 14:55 to go.

UNC trims it back to 14 on Renner’s 56-yard pass to Davis with 13:52 left.

But Harvey’s 29-yard field goal makes it 48-31 with 8:53 to play.

And the Pirates tack on the exclamation point with 3:33 to go on Carden’s 48-yard TD pass to Ray.

Carden and Vintavious Cooper each have career-type games for the Pirates. Carden completes 32 of 47 passes for 186 yards and the three TDs, rushing eight times for 23 yards and the three scores. Cooper carries 35 times for 186 yards, also catching eight passes for 70. Ray has five catches for 84 yards and his three TDs.

Renner completes 28 of 46 passes for 366 yards and three TDs with an interception. A.J. Blue rushes 20 times for 68 yards, while Davis catches five for 111 yards and a TD while also throwing his first TD pass.

A.J. Blue looks for running room against the Pirates Adonis Armstrong.

They said it …
McNeill: “It’s a big win, but we needed a win. We felt like we’ve got a pretty good ball team — a chance to have a pretty good ball team — if we keep improving week-to-week. To get the win was big. Having played in this game, I’ve been asked about it quite a bit. It’s special. And it’s always an intense, hard-hitting game.”

UNC coach Larry Fedora: “It’s a very disappointing performance by the Tar Heels today. It was hard for me to find something positive from the sidelines. I’m going to have to look at the film to find positives in this game and to try to build on some things. We’ve got a long way to go.”

Carden: “Some people around the university didn’t have a lot of faith in us this week, but we always did. Our game plan obviously worked. We want to be balanced. We got their DBs thinking a little bit. We did a great job running the ball, and our offensive line was outstanding.”

Renner: “It’s a team game. We didn’t do our job in the first half by scoring enough points. We only scored 10 and put ourselves in a hole. I think we have the caliber of athletes who can do it and I know we can do it. We just have to find something that clicks, and we can’t fall off and lose confidence.”

What does it all mean?

That the Pirates are flying as high as they’ve been in a very long time, while the Tar Heels have some recovering to do but fast.

Stars of the game
1. Carden.
2. Cooper.
3. Ray.

Play of the game
Hairston’s TD run for the first 25-point lead.


UNC: Lost 2.
ECU: Won 1.

All-time series
UNC leads 11-3-1.

Up next

UNC at Virginia Tech, Oct. 5, 12:30 p.m.
ECU at Middle Tennessee State, Oct. 5, 3:30 p.m.