Pirates plunder Tar Heels
Not only was East Carolina strong safety Chip Thompson confident that the Pirates would defeat North Carolina on Saturday, he wasn’t surprised at the 55-31 thrashing they put on the Tar Heels.
“I expected it from the start,” Thompson, who came up with an interception, said.
He might be one of the few not shocked at how the ECU thoroughly dominated in just their second win ever at Kenan Stadium, the other coming in 1975.
Outside of two punts and an interception, they proved unstoppable, torching Carolina’s defense for 603 yards on an amazing 101 plays as their hurry-up offense proved the better of the two. ECU bolted to a 21-3 by early in the second quarter and led by as many as 25 in the second half.
After coaches and players celebrated in front of two sections of ECU fans and students sitting in front of the walkway to the winner’s locker room, ECU coach Ruffin McNeill tried not to make too much of his squad beating the more high-profile in-state school from the ACC.
The Pirates improved to 3-1, rebounding from a 15-10 loss to Virginia Tech. UNC, which had a hard time tackling, fell to 1-3.
“It was hard for me to find something positives on the sidelines, and I’m going to have to look at the film to find some positives to build on,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said.
McNeill, an ECU alum, was in high school the last time that the Pirates won in Chapel Hill.
“It’s a big win but we needed a win,” McNeill said. “We feel like we have a pretty good team if we keep improving week to week. Having played in this game, I’ve been asked about it quite a bit. It’s special. And it’s an intense, hard-hitting game. It’s good and I’m happy for the kids.”
Quarterback Shane Carden and running back Vintavious Cooper powered the ECU rout. Carden completed 32 of 47 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 22 yards and three scores (all from a yard out).
Cooper ran for a career-best 186 yards on 35 carries and was the Pirates’ leading receiver with eight catches for 70 yards.
The offensive explosion came after the Pirates managed only 204 yards and just 46 rushing against Virginia Tech.
“After Virginia Tech, we looked at the film and saw how much better we can play,” Carden said. “ I think we put together one of those days where everyone is on the same page and playing hard.”
The 35 rushing attempts and 12 catches for Cooper almost matched the 40 runs and eight catches he had in the previous three games. McNeill said that it was not predetermined that Cooper would get that much work.
“I didn’t ask for it,” Cooper said. “You can’t know what is going to happen on any given day but they opened up the playbook for me.”
Carolina wasn’t totally inept on offense, gaining 465 yards as the Tar Heels passed for 366 but ran for just 112. Quarterback Bryn Renner threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns and wide receiver Quinshad Davis threw a 32-yard touchdown pass in the first half.
Davis caught a 56-yard TD pass from Renner to cut the lead to 45-31 and gave Carolina a bit of hope with 13:52 left to play. But, after ECU kick a field goal on its next possession, any hopes of a miracle ended when the Tar Heels couldn’t move the next time they got the ball. ECU capped the scoring when Carden tossed a 48-yard touchdown pass to Lance Ray on a 4th-and-1 with 3:33 to play.
“I think we have to stop waiting for one man to make a play,” UNC running back A.J. Blue said. “I think our guys have to step up to the plate and have to decide to make a play. I think it ultimately comes from the locker room. ... I think the lack of focus and lack of preparation is the reason we didn’t have the energy or passion.”
ECU 55, UNC 31
East Carolina 14 14 14 13—55
North Carolina 0 10 14 7—31
ECU_Hardy 6 pass from Carden (Harvey kick), 11:28.
ECU_Ray 7 pass from Carden (Harvey kick), 3:06.
NC_FG T.Moore 21, 14:17.
ECU_Carden 1 run (Harvey kick), 10:05.
NC_Thorpe 32 pass from Q.Davis (T.Moore kick), 6:33.
ECU_Carden 1 run (Harvey kick), 1:48.
ECU_Hairston 3 run (Harvey kick), 11:38.
NC_Howard 3 pass from Renner (T.Moore kick), 9:36.
ECU_Carden 1 run (Harvey kick), 6:16.
NC_Platt 23 pass from Renner (T.Moore kick), 4:41.
ECU_FG Harvey 32, 14:55.
NC_Q.Davis 56 pass from Renner (T.Moore kick), 13:52.
ECU_FG Harvey 29, 8:53.
ECU_Ray 48 pass from Carden (Harvey kick), 3:33.
First downs 36 26
Rushes-yards 54-227 32-67
Passing 376 398
Comp-Att-Int 32-47-1 29-47-1
Return Yards 7 41
Punts-Avg. 2-45.5 5-38.2
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 3-34 9-94
Time of Possession 36:09 23:51
RUSHING_East Carolina, Cooper 35-186, Carden 8-22, J.Williams 1-10, B.Allen 1-5, Smyre 1-5, Hairston 4-5, Team 4-(minus 6). North Carolina, Blue 20-68, Francis 4-10, Singleton 1-3, Renner 7-(minus 14).
PASSING_East Carolina, Carden 32-47-1-376. North Carolina, Renner 28-46-1-366, Q.Davis 1-1-0-32.
RECEIVING_East Carolina, Cooper 8-70, Hardy 6-66, Ray 5-84, D.Grayson 2-39, J.Williams 2-28, I.Jones 2-27, Webster 2-16, Worthy 1-16, Pasut 1-11, B.Allen 1-8, Smyre 1-6, Bry.Williams 1-5. North Carolina, Thorpe 6-70, Blue 6-56, Q.Davis 5-111, Ebron 4-63, Switzer 2-28, Howard 2-26, Francis 2-13, Platt 1-23, M.McNeill 1-8.