North Carolina's second trick play for a touchdown, a 29-yard pass from
holder Tommy Hibbard to a wide open Eric Albright from field goal
formation, momentarily subdued the excitement at rowdy Dowdy-Ficklen
Stadium on Saturday.
The score came with 12:15
left in the first half and gave the Tar Heels their last lead at 20-14.
UNC, ranked No. 25 in the
coaches poll and coming off an open date that gave the Heels plenty of
time to smolder over
last year's 55-31 loss to the Pirates
in Chapel Hill, were looking capable of payback.
But the ECU program wasn't
studying losing face in front of charged-up Pirate Nation or an ESPNU
The Pirates scored the next
28 points and went on to provide a memorable 70-41 win for themselves
and everyone who shouted "Purple" or "Gold" on Hall of Fame weekend.
ECU alumnus and coach
Ruffin McNeill was honored that his Pirates coach, Pat Dye, could be on
hand. McNeill continues to credit the players' commitment to the vision
for the program.
Shane Carden, the poster
guy for the Pirate offense, completed 30 of 48 passes for 438 yards and
He gave up an interception
early that led to a 10-7 Tar Heels lead with 9:43 left in the first
quarter on a 35-yard wide receiver pass from Ryan Switzer to T.J.
"We have great coaching,"
Carden said. "You've got to weather the storm. There are going to be
times in games where things happen that are against you. You can't
flinch. You can't let them bother you.
"Picks are going to happen.
I don't want to throw picks. I'll look at that. I'm sure I could have
done better on that play but it happens and you've got to forget about
"I think our team did a
great job of continuing to battle the storm when they were making plays
of coming back and making big plays right back at them.
"You've got to do that to
win tough ball games."
The plays that the Pirates
came back with included a 26-yard scoring reception by Trevon Brown with
10:01 left in the half for a 21-20 ECU lead. Brown snared a 55-yard
touchdown pass on the third play from scrimmage.
Brown's performance, which
included five catches for 117 yards and a pair of TDs, came in the
absence of Cam Worthy, who received a two-game suspension from the ECU
Student Affairs division. The penalty stemmed from a verbal disagreement
with a male student on campus before preseason camp. The situation went
through an appeals process and the suspension was announced on game day.
Worthy had six catches for 224 yards in
a 28-21 win at No. 17 Virginia Tech
Brown wasn't the only one
Breon Allen played the sort
of role that Vintavious Cooper delivered for ECU in 2012 and 2013, a
small back who can break big plays. Allen, who is 5 feet, 8 inches and
190 pounds, ran 18 times for 211 yards with two TDs.
He followed his blocking
with a series of cuts that produced a scintillating 44-yard scoring run.
It looked like the Heels were in position to hem Allen up at the line of
scrimmage before he got to the end zone for a 28-20 lead with 3:48 left
in the half. The play came with ECU facing third-and-28 at the UNC 44
after a sack and a procedure penalty.
"That's a gift God has
given me to be able to navigate through stuff like that," Allen said. "I
read Trevon's block very well. I read Isaiah's (Jones) block very well.
I read (left tackle) Ike Harris's block very well at the beginning of
the play. They always do a good job of blocking for me down field."
McNeill and staff put a
premium on blocking by their talented receiving corps.
"If they don't block, they
don't play," said the Pirates coach.
East Carolina led 35-20 at
the half, which, coincidentally, was the final score in a UNC victory on
Oct. 1, 2011,
the last time the Tar Heels played in
The crowd of 51,082 was a
stadium record, surpassing the 50,610 figure for that UNC visit three
Carden hit Brandon Bishop
for a 19-yard touchdown just eight seconds before halftime.to complete
an 80-yard drive. It was the first collegiate reception for Bishop, a
sophomore out of Greene Central, the high school alma mater of new
Pirates baseball coach Cliff Godwin.
"It was big to get points
right before half because we knew they would get the ball coming out in
the second half," Carden said.
That first UNC possession
was short-circuited by a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown by
Pirates mike linebacker Zeek Bigger, who read a crossing route and
jumped the pass from Marquise Williams, who Bigger knows going back to
youth league football.
Bigger had seven solo
tackles and 10 assists to lead the Pirates.
"Basically we stayed
focused," Bigger said. "We keep it rocking. We out here. We turned it in
to a party. ... When we come out here and play football, it's a party.
We have fun. We showed Dowdy-Fick, what we've been practicing, what
we've been working on."
Bigger said the Tar Heels
quarterback spoke to him.
"He said, 'I love you,'"
Bigger said. "I said, 'I love you, too. Throw me another one.' "
Williams directed a drive
that stopped ECU's string of points and closed the gap to 42-27.
Another Pirate flurry that
included two scoring keepers by Carden sandwiched around a 25-yard TD
pass to Jones extended the margin to 63-27 and assured consecutive ECU
wins in the series for the first time.
ECU's 789 yards of total
offense is a school record.
"It doesn't get too much
better than that, at home in front of our fans," said senior Justin
Hardy, who had six catches for 92 yards.
The outcome generated a lot
of positive emotion for a region and an institution that has sometimes
felt oppressed by UNC, dating back to times when East Carolina sought
university status, a medical school and membership in the ACC.
It was the fourth straight
win against an ACC opponent for the Pirates over the last two seasons.
ECU's recruiting classes
are rated below UNC's annually but the Pirates are able to recruit
players that fit their systems and they are developing those players
ECU has scored 125 points
against the Tar Heels in two seasons.
McNeill, who has overseen
the program's progress, enjoyed the moment and welcomed a large group of
recruits. Very little, if anything, can surpass what the prospective
players saw in terms of a college football experience.
"I looked at the players
and they were happy." McNeill said. "I saw my family and they were
happy. My family and my players are what I care about. I'm good."