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Inside Game Day
Saturday, September 15, 2012

By Al Myatt

Carden makes like a master

Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

HATTIESBURG, MS Shane Carden said he hoped former Southern Miss quarterback Brett Favre would be at the East Carolina game on Saturday because he wanted to meet his boyhood hero.

"Growing up, I was always a big Brett Favre fan," Carden said. "A lot of people said I looked like him. I guess just watching all that film of him, I roll out every once in a while and make plays kind of how he did. He's a great player. I've always looked up to him since I've been a ball player."

Carden didn't get to meet Favre, who went on to lead the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl title, but the Pirates sophomore quarterback, who bears a physical resemblance to the former NFL great, did a pretty good job in the Conference USA opener of imitating the seemingly ageless wonder.

Carden, making his first start after showing promise in a relief role at South Carolina, completed 13 of 27 passes for 171 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Carden netted 18 yards on eight carries with a score.

After committing five turnovers last week in a 48-10 loss at South Carolina, the Pirates had nary a turnover at The Rock, where the hosts had not lost a home opener since 1998.

"That was the number one thing coming into this week was no turnovers," Carden said. "I didn't throw any interceptions. None of the playmakers made any fumbles. That's what we have to do to win the game."

After yielding a scoring drive on its first possession, ECU's defense kept the Pirates in the game until Carden could establish a connection with his receivers.

"Our defense played great today," Carden said. "(Southern Miss) has a tough offense and this is a hard place to play. ... Our defense let us stick around, stick around and let our offense get going."

The usually reliable Andrew Bodenheimer dropped a pass in the flat to start the game and the butter fingers became contagious. ECU coach Ruffin McNeill made a plea for some help for the defense to the offensive bench area late in the first half.

Carden thought the receivers would come around.

"They've just got to look it in," Carden said. "I'm not worried at all. Those guys are playmakers. They'll catch the ball. That kind of stuff happens. You can't worry about it. I told 'em after it happened look, I'm going right back at you next play. Next drive, I'm throwing the ball right at you so be ready to go and no worries."

Bodenheimer made a diving catch for a 32-yard gain late in the first half to set up a 54-yard field goal by Warren Harvey as the first half expired to bring the Pirates within 7-3.

A 55-yard touchdown pass from Carden to Justin Hardy, the combination that produced the lone touchdown last week, put ECU ahead to stay at 10-7 with 4:49 left in the third quarter. The Pirates had gained possession after nose tackle Terry Williams, playing his first game of the season, stopped Golden Eagles true freshman quarterback Anthony Alford for a loss of a yard when USM went for a fourth and one at the ECU 15.

Hardy had five catches for 92 yards. Bodenheimer's three receptions netted 45 yards.

The defense continued to step up. ECU corner Adonis Armstrong, a Mississippi native, recovered an Alford fumble at the Southern Miss 19. Carden won a foot race to the left side of the end zone for an 8-yard score to push the Pirates' lead to 17-7 with 2:41 to go in the third.

The decisive flurry continued as Kyle Tudor's driving hit forced another Alford bobble and Montese Overton made a 16-yard fumble return for a touchdown for a 24-7 lead with 1:19 remaining in the third quarter.

The Pirates scored 21 points in less than four minutes.

It was similar to the spree that produced a 48-28 USM win in Greenville last season when the Pirates yielded four non-offensive touchdowns in the first half.

Southern Miss changed quarterbacks and junior Chris Campbell completed a 79-yard drive with an 8-yard scoring pass to Markese Triplett to get the Golden Eagles within two scores.

The Pirates were able to keep the ball for over six minutes with a series that started at the ECU 17 with 11:50 left in the game. When Trent Tignor punted, it was downed at the Golden Eagles' 2-yard line for the second time in the game. Campbell directed a drive out that got as far as the ECU 44 before a sack by Terrell Stanley on third down and an incompletion on fourth down sealed a huge win in terms of the C-USA East Division race.

Carden didn't rattle although Southern Miss's reputation for fierce defense presented a challenge.

"Shane played smart," Coach McNeill said. "Jamie Collins (USM senior defensive lineman) is one of the best defensive players in our league. He posed a threat to us. Shane handled it well.

"Everybody stayed calm on the sidelines. He was very poised and confident and then we came in at the half and made an adjustment. He got us to be able to run a little bit with some effectiveness and I thought he led our team to a great win."

E-mail Al Myatt.

PAGE UPDATED 09/16/12 01:18 AM.

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