Bonesville: The Authoritative Independent Voice of East Carolina
Daily News & Features from East Carolina, Conference USA and Beyond

Mobile Alpha Roundup Daily Beat Recruiting The Seasons Multimedia Historical Data Pirate Time Machine SportByte™ Weather





Target your ad message at thousands of ECU Pirate fans. Call 252.349.3280 for flexible options & rates.





Pirate Notebook No. 501
Monday, November 26, 2012

Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien

Hardy already among best ever

Harris Poll

For the seventh year in a row, columnist Denny O'Brien is a member of the voting panel for the Harris Interactive College Football Poll commissioned by the Bowl Championship Series. O'Brien was nominated to the panel by Conference USA. His weekly ballot will be published in this space each Monday throughout the rest of the season.

The Harris Poll is a component of the BCS Standings. O'Brien's ballot below was filed in conjunction with this week's Harris Poll.

Denny O'Brien's Harris Poll Ballot

(Ballot filed 11.25.12;
ECU opponents and current
and incoming Conference USA
teams highlighted in yellow.

  1. Notre Dame
  2. Alabama
  3. Georgia
  4. Oregon
  5. Florida
  6. LSU
  7. Kansas State
  8. Texas A&M
  9. Stanford
10. South Carolina
11. Oklahoma
12. Florida State
13. Nebraska
14. Clemson
15. Oregon State
16. UCLA
17. Northwestern
18. Utah State
19. Boise State
20. Northern Illinois
21. Michigan
22. Kent State
23. Vanderbilt
24. Louisville
25. San Jose State

Weekly BCS Standings

Weekly Voters' Polls


The time is now ... to wait
Hardy already among best ever
Denny O'Brien's Harris BCS Poll Ballot
BCS Standings
Harris, AP, Coaches Polls
Conference USA Standings & Schedule
Spied from the Crow's Nest
Web Headlines Roundup
Conference USA at a Glance
Game Center: ECU 65, Marshall 59 (2OT)
Inside Game Day: Pirates had Herd all the way
Game Slants: Youth served on Senior Day
Game Day Photo Gallery
Audio: Coach Ruff Post-game
Greg's Game Day Breakdown
Game Day Radar Loop & Weather Notes
Kevin's Keys to the Game
Frontcourt duo propels 4-0 Pirates
Too early for bowl talk, says Ruff
Audio: Terry Holland on Conference Realignment
Audio: Coach Ruff Monday Presser
ECU Football Schedule
ECU Basketball Schedule
Year-by-Year Recruiting

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

View the Mobile Alpha version of this page.

In a game filled with offensive standouts, it should be difficult to select the breakout star from East Carolina’s 65-59 double overtime victory over Marshall Friday. Exactly how do you select one guy in a game that eclipsed 100 points and 1,000 yards?

Pirates quarterback Shane Carden was certainly worthy after a 439-yard passing effort that included three touchdowns through the air and three more on the ground. His effort was simply one of the best we’ve ever witnessed by any quarterback in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Marshall starting QB Rakeem Cato was equally impressive. Despite missing much of the second half with both knee and ankle injuries, he registered 318 yards passing and five scores. The Herd hurler more than demonstrated why he is among the nations’ most prolific passers.

But if you had to pick one star from Friday’s shootout, it wouldn’t be either of the guys throwing the passes. Rather, it would be the one who caught a bushel of them. Pirates receiver Justin Hardy was the best player on the field.

Article continues below the following picture.

Justin Hardy (2) in action against Houston earlier this month. [Photo: W.A. Myatt]

Hardy quickly is establishing himself as one of the best receivers in ECU history, if not the best ever.

By the time regulation ended early Friday evening, Hardy had corralled 16 balls for 171 yards. Even more impressive was the timing of his catches, several of which occurred at critical moments during the Pirates’ overtime-forcing drive.

His 19-yard catch on 4th and 10 kept the 46,000-plus who attended from exiting. Two plays later he added a 16-yard reception, only to one-up himself with an acrobatic 19-yard snare on the very next play.

It provided the perfect punctuation to Hardy’s career-to-date.

“He was just being his normal self,” Carden said of Hardy’s performance. “He’s a great playmaker. If you just give him the ball, he’s going to make plays. He’s got good hands. I think they (Marshall) just lost track of him, and he made some great plays for us tonight.”

Just like he’s done throughout his 1,000-yard season.

Given his sophomore status, it should be unfair to compare Hardy to other ECU receiving greats, especially considering who is included among that group.

There’s former Pirates and current Dallas Cowboys receiver Dwayne Harris, arguably the best all-around player in program history. There’s Lance Lewis, Aundrae Allison, Terrance Copper, Larry Shannon, Troy Smith and Hunter Gallimore, along with several others.

Each made a significant impact on the ECU program and can be found atop various categories in its record books. But each one of those records is subject to shattering with Hardy on the field.

Not the most imposing physically, Hardy is as good a route runner as you will find, and his hands are second to none. And while not an Olympic sprinter, he has more than enough speed to run away from defenders.

Even more impressive is the fact that Hardy has two years remaining at ECU. That has to be a frustrating proposition for the defensive coordinators who must construct defensive plans to contain him.

Because if you had to choose one receiver in ECU history to headline the Pirates’ offense over the next two seasons, it would be difficult to select someone other than Hardy.

Different perspectives

On one hand, East Carolina is an 8-4 football operation that included an impressive 7-1 mark in Conference USA. On the other, the Pirates didn’t beat a team with a winning record outside of FCS opponent Appalachian State.

Both are accurate measurements of how the Pirates fared during the regular season.

Ultimately your perspective on the season depends on where you focus. Is it on the Pirates’ record or the competition that helped produce it?

“Wins are hard,” Pirates Coach Ruffin McNeill said. “I’m proud of us winning. To get eight was big. We wanted eight. Now we want nine or ten.

"I thought finishing 7-1 in the conference was big. I felt good about the kids accomplishing that.”

When you look at the overall body of work, Navy was the only loss in which there was a noticeable talent advantage for ECU, and the criticisms that followed that performance were fair. Given the Pirates’ talent, there certainly was something that could have been done schematically to better contain the triple option.

The Pirates’ other three losses were largely the result of better personnel for the opposition. That’s not to say that talent gaps can’t be overcome with Xs and Os, especially considering ECU’s history of doing so.

Even so, to dismiss an eight-win season because of the competition isn’t fair to the coaches and players. Regardless of how good or bad C-USA is, this was only the second time the Pirates finished with a 7-1 league record.

That should count for something.

4th down call

Had East Carolina lost Friday, the most debatable coaching call would have been the decision to go for it on 4th and 1 from midfield with just over two minutes remaining in the first half.

The Pirates were leading 35-21 at the time, and could have pinned the Herd deep with a punt and potentially preserved a two-score lead heading into intermission. On the flip side, had ECU converted, it could have punctuated the half with another score and carried a 21-point cushion into the locker room.

Instead, the Pirates were stuffed and surrendered a momentum-shifting touchdown.

“I was trying to win the game,” McNeill said. “I was trying to win the championship. My experience is, when you have a chance to get into a championship game, I say go for it.

"I felt we could make it with Cooper running. They did a good job of stacking it up. You always ask yourself ‘What if?’ Not me. I felt good about being able to make it.”

No doubt, the higher percentage move would have been to punt, thus the outcry that understandably followed. But had ECU gotten a yard against one of the nation’s worst rushing defenses, McNeill would have been applauded for the call.

E-mail Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien Archives

11/26/2012 04:01 AM

©2001-2002-2003-2004-2005-2006-2007-2008-2009-2010-2011-2012-2013 All rights reserved.
Articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files and other content originated on this site are the proprietary property of
None of the articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files or other content originated on this site may be reproduced without written permission.
This site is not affiliated with East Carolina University. View's Privacy Policy. Advertising contact: 252-349-3280; Editorial contact:; 252-444-1905.