ECU 70, UNC-CH 41  Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium  Attend: 51,082 TV: ESPNU

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Inside Game Day
Saturday, September 20, 2014

By Al Myatt

Work pays off as Pirates party

Ruff Post-game

ECU coach Ruffin McNeill spoke with the press after the Pirates defeated North Carolina on Saturday in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (recorded by W.A. Myatt; file photo): Select audio clip...

Pix from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium

Heels can't hang with Pirates

ECU receiver Jimmy Williams is on the move during the Pirates' rout of North Carolina on Saturday. [W.A. Myatt photo]

View W.A. Myatt's gallery of game day images...



Kevin's Keys to the Game

The East Carolina Pirates return home to Dowdy-Ficklen today to face in-state rival UNC-Chapel Hill. Every time these programs match up, it is a big game for both teams. This year the Tar Heels opened the season in the top 25. The Pirates are their first real test after wins over Liberty and San Diego State. ECU, as usual, is fighting for respect. ... More from Kevin Monroe...



Your personal guide to split loyalties

The term "House Divided" has been used to describe members of the same family that root for different teams when those teams play each other. On Saturday, there will be many families that have both East Carolina and North Carolina connections with an acute interest in the matchup in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. ... More from Greg Vacek...



Numbers better for Smith and staff

Al Myatt

With the big games that Shane Carden and Cam Worthy had offensively in a 28-21 win at Virginia Tech on Saturday, it's easy to lose sight of the contributions of the East Carolina defense in a 2-1 start as the Pirates get ready to host North Carolina (2-0) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU). ... More from Al Myatt...



Big win means bigger opportunity

East Carolina made it three in a row over ACC teams on Saturday, beating Virginia Tech 28-21 in Blacksburg. More impressive is the fact that each of the three wins came on the road. Now the Pirates can go for four in a row ... More from Brian Bailey...


Audio: The Brian Bailey Show

The Brian Bailey Show airs on Pirate Radio 1250 on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. Brian's guest was ECU RBs coach & recruiting coordinator Kirk Doll: Replay show...


Audio: Coach Ruff Weekly Presser...

ECU coach Ruffin McNeill spoke with the media at his weekly press conference on Monday (courtesy of Pirate Radio 1250; Bonesville file photo): Select clip...

By Al Myatt
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GREENVILLE 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 audience.

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 four touchdowns.

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. Thorpe.

"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 it.

"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 last week.

Brown wasn't the only one stepping up.

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 Greenville.

The crowd of 51,082 was a stadium record, surpassing the 50,610 figure for that UNC visit three years ago.

Carden hit Brandon Bishop for a 19-yard touchdown just eight seconds before 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 impeccably.

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."

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09/21/2014 02:51:34 PM