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September 5, 2013GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina(2-0/1-0 C-USA) grinded away at pesky Florida Atlantic both on the ground and through the air. The Pirates had little difficulty in dispatching the Owls 31-13 Thursday night in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to open the Conference USA season.
It was blackout night in Dowdy-Ficklen and the Pirates turned out the lights early on the visiting Owls.
Quarterback Shane Carden led the Pirates, passing for 191 yards and two touchdowns on 17 of 25 passing while Vintavous Cooper led the ECU ground game with 98 yards on 20 carries including a touchdown. He also led all receivers with five catches for the evening. Justin Hardy had four catches, good for 36 yards and a touchdown.
The Pirates have won two games in the last five days and after the game ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill talked about it.
"It was a great challenge for our team. We planned on this, from the practice in fall camp anticipating this short week. Really a man up effort by our group to face a team like Old Dominion who stretched the field on us and come back in a short window with weather type obstacles in the way," McNeill said, "When you watch their team you saw tonight and I watched them again before the team came over. I was really proud of our group. They played great on all four sides of the ball: offense, defense, special teams, and sidelines."
The win was the Pirates' first in their final year in Conference USA.
"It's big. All wins are big but winning this first one in conference is very big. We talked about that as a group and we challenged them as a group. From up front, offensive and defensive line to special teams, continued development in controlling the game, said McNeill, "Making sure we made a difference on special teams and offensively and defensively feeding off each other."
FAU Coach Carl Pelini talked about his first Conference USA contest Thursday night in Greenville.
"We knew it was going to be a good conference. We knew East Carolina was a heck of a program and a lot of people picked them to win our division and you can see why. They are a really good football team. (Head coach) Ruffin McNeill has got them going," Pelini said, "I thought our defense played well enough to win the game. They held that offense to 300 yards and put the pressure on the quarterback like we did and defended the short field a couple times. They did everything we asked them to do."
Carden got the scoring started when he found Davon Grayson for an 18-yard touchdown strike with 11:18 to go in the first quarter to give ECU a 7-0 lead.
Two Mitch Anderson field goals six minutes apart put six points on the scoreboard for Florida Atlantic.
But Carden went to work again later in the second quarter finding Justin Hardy on a one-yard completion for the second Pirate touchdown of the game for a 14-6 ECU lead.
Vintavious Cooper put the Pirates up by 15 when he ran up the middle for a seven-yard ECU touchdown with 10:09 in the first half as ECU increased their cushion to 21-6 at intermission.
ECU kicker Warren Harvey extended the Pirates' lead to 24-6 on a 22-yard field goal early in the third quarter.
The Pirates wasted little time scoring again after stopping an FAU drive when running back Chris Hairston swashbucked his way for four yards into the endzone. That pushed ECU's lead to 31-6.
After both teams exchanged fumble recoveries early in the fourth quarter before East Carolina brought on backup quarterback Cody Keith in relief of Carden midway through the fourth quarter.
Williams Dukes, who had six catches for the evening, got FAU(0-2/0-1 C-USA) on the scoreboard for their only touchdown of the contest on a 2-yard pass from Greg Hankerson with just 1:03 left in the game.
ECU ended up with 312 yards in total offense compared to 282 for FAU. FAU quarterback Greg Hankerson connected on 14 of 26 passes for 116 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Jaquez Johnson hit on 9 of 14 for 62 yards and one interception in FAU's duel-quarterback system.
"It's difficult. We knew that," Pelini said, "We graduated a senior quarterback and when we came to FAU we didn't have a lot of depth at that position. We knew no matter what at least early in the year we were going to have to force someone in there and make them grow up. They just have to grow up more quickly than they already are."
Brandon Williams and Zeek Bigger led the Pirates on defense with 9 tackles each. Maurice Falls and Josh Hawkins both recorded interceptions for East Carolina. Brandin Bryant and Adarius Glanton had eight tackles apiece for Florida Atlantic.
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