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November 2, 2013MIAMI - The Pirates are bowl eligible for the seventh time in the past eight seasons after a hard fought 34-13 win over Florida International(1-6/1-3).
It did not come as easy as one might expect, but East Carolina got the job done in their first visit to Alfonzo Field at FIU Stadium in muggy conditions near 80 degrees Saturday night.
Shane Carden passed for 263 yards on 23 of 34 passing with three touchdowns to lead East Carolina(6-2/4-1) to their third road victory of the season. The Pirates rolled up 368 yards in total offense while the ECU defense came up big time after time putting pressure on the quarterback throughout the contest. FIU was limited to under 250 total yards. E.J. Hilliard completed 19 of 28 for 154 yards in the loss.
Justin Hardy caught five passes for 138 yards with a touchdown and passed for another one on a double reverse in the second half. Isaiah Jones caught nine passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. Vintavious Cooper ran for 45 yards on 12 carries as well as catching a touchdown pass in the win.
"We talk about life is 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it. I was proud of our guys. We had guys step up tonight like Trey (Robertson who stepped in for the injured Adhern Elsawi at right tackle). I'm proud of the guys. Coach Turner is a really good ball coach, so I was really proud of my team," said ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill after the game.
Carden didn't need much time to get things started for the Pirates, connecting with prime inside receiver Justin Hardy on a 42-yard touchdown strike in the first minute and a half of the contest. Warren Harvey's PAT gave ECU an early 7-0 lead.
The Panthers got on the scoreboard, cutting the lead to four on a 52-yard Austin Taylor field goal with 7:43 to go in the first quarter.
Vintavious Cooper got the ECU running game going on the next drive. A pair of Isaiah Jones receptions and a Carden scramble down the right sideline on 3rd down kept the drive alive at the 4 minute mark. Then DaQuan Barnes got into the act and scored on a 26-yard Carden dart up the middle for 14-3 East Carolina lead.
A running into the kicker penalty on ECU's Josh Hawkins on a 52-yard field goal attempt by Taylor rekindled an FIU drive in the last minute of the first quarter. But with 13:27 left in the first half, ECU's defense stopped FIU on fourth-and-two to kill the Panther's momentum.
Two Carden to Hardy passes later found the ball spotted on the FIU four yard line where Carden handed off to Breon Allen to the one yard line. On third-and-goal Carden scrambled left and then rolled right where he threw a laser to Vintavious Cooper in the front right corner of the endzone. Harvey's third PAT gave ECU a commanding 21-3 cushion.
Florida International chewed up quite a bit of clock and scored on a nine and a half minute, 16 play drive culminating in a 2-yard Silas Spearman touchdown run up the middle. That cut the East Carolina lead to 21-10 at halftime.
Carden passed for 211 yards on 14 of 19 passing in the first half with three touchdown passes. The Pirates put together 245 yards of total offense in the first two quarters. FIU outrushed ECU 71-34 in the first two quarters. E.J. Hilliard connected on 10 of 15 pass attempts for 84 yards in the first half.
ECU linebacker Montese Overton blitzed on third down and sacked Hilliard forcing a 31-yard Austin Taylor field goal to cut the lead to 21-13 midway through the third quarter.
A pass interference penalty on ECU cornerback Josh Hawkins put FIU in business at the ECU 45 yard line. But Hilliard threw an interception into triple coverage on the next play on a long pass that was swiped by ECU safety Chip Thompson near the FIU goal line. Even though ECU was unable to capitalize on the turnover and score, they were able to flip the field on a 56 yard Trent Tignor punt. Another Montese Overton sack killed FIU's drive.
Warren Harvey's field goal missed from 46 yards after a 36-yarder that he connected on was negated by a holding penalty. The score remained 21-13 at the 14 minute mark of the fourth quarter.
East Carolina scored on a trick play with 9:11 to go the fourth quarter when Isaiah Jones caught a pass on a double reverse from Justin Hardy for a 34-yard touchdown to extend ECU's lead to 28-13.
The Pirates got to Hilliard for three sacks to halt any FIU threat in the last two minutes of the contest. ECU scored one last time touchdown with 1:13 on the clock when Carden handed off to Cooper who ran around right end for the final margin of victory. Warren Harvey's streak of 86 extra points came to an end with a missed PAT in the last 1:13 of the game.
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