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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, September 11, 2012

By Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey

Pirates aim to bounce back with Carden


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By Brian Bailey
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I don’t think many expected East Carolina to go down to Columbia and beat the 9th-ranked Gamecocks on Saturday.

I do think many, including Pirate coach Ruffin McNeill and his staff, expected to go down to South Carolina and be competitive.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. South Carolina whipped the Pirates in every phase of the game, 48-10.

On Monday, Coach McNeill announced a change at quarterback. Sophomore Shane Carden gets the start this week against Southern Miss as the Pirates open play in Conference USA. Carden replaces Rio Johnson.

Johnson made several questionable decisions and threw three interceptions in the loss to the Gamecocks. He was replaced by Carden to start the second half. Carden threw an interception, and then Johnson re-entered the game and threw his third pick, this one going for a South Carolina touchdown.

Carden threw the pick on his first passing attempt on Saturday. After that he was pretty solid, completing 12-of-17 for 140 yards. One of the tosses went to Justin Hardy from 34 yards out for the Pirates' lone touchdown of the long afternoon.

Eight of Carden's 12 completions went for first downs. The Pirates need that kind of productivity early, not when the game is out of hand.

“All season long when I have referred to our quarterbacks I have always noted that I consider Shane a starter as well,” said McNeill. “I would not hesitate in rotating or switching quarterbacks if it was in the best interest of the team.

"We were going to put Shane in for Rio at the end of the half, but we waited and just put him in to start the third quarter. He had a tough throw that first series that was intercepted, but after that he came back and did a good job.

"We have a lot of confidence in all of our quarterbacks, and that includes Brad Wornick as well. Rio did a good job the last few weeks, but Shane will be given the opportunity to be the starter this week.”

Carden pretty much had the feeling that he might get the nod after Saturday’s loss.

“I prepared like I was starting the first two games during practice,” said Carden. “I’ll let the coaches decide and go from there.”

The decision came swiftly, and now the Pirates head to Hattiesburg with a new man under center.

I believe Carden thought he should have been the starter all along. I base that on how Carden reacted to the news that Johnson would start the opener when it came two weeks ago. He was visibly upset that week when talking to reporters.

Now this Pirate team is his to lead.

It would certainly help Shane or Rio or anyone else at the quarterback position if the team were running the ball better. The Pirates abandoned the run game early against South Carolina and only went back to it when the game had already been decided.

I asked specifically about the running game at Monday’s weekly press conference.

“We want to run the football, and if we see five at the line of scrimmage we will run the ball,” explained McNeill. “If the defense has six players in the box we will pass it. Everyone knows that. That is not a hidden gem.

"South Carolina did a good job of playing six in the box and manning us up in the secondary. We are a pretty balanced football team and I would like to see that continue.”

While the offense gets much of the attention, the defense sprang leaks in several areas on Saturday. The Pirates did limit Gamecocks star running back Marcus Lattimore to just 40 yards, but frankly South Carolina didn’t need to run because of its success through the air.

The Pirates are certainly lacking for confidence heading into week three.

McNeill is determined to not have a South Carolina hangover in Hattiesburg.

“We can’t let one loss turn into two,” said McNeill. “Just like this university we have a tough group. The team was a little disappointed with the way they played against South Carolina because they are competitors. Whenever you lose a game it should hurt, but we will bounce back.”

The best part about the football season is the next game. Teams can’t get too high after wins or too low after losses.

There’s always the next game.

That game can’t get here fast enough for the guys in purple and gold.


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09/11/2012 09:45 AM


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