NEW ORLEANS - Nobody said it would be easy in the Big Easy and it sure wasn't pretty, but East Carolina clawed and scrapped their way to a 28-23 victory over Tulane in the Mercedes Benz Superdome Saturday afternoon.
ECU quarterback Shane Carden went 19 for 33 for 214 yards with two touchdown passes and one on the ground against two interceptions in the victory.
Vintavious Cooper had 16 carries for 89 yards while Justin Hardy caught 5 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown.
"Wins are hard. I'm very proud of the way our team fought. C.J. is a good football coach, so to come here and take this one, I'm proud for our guys and I was proud of our staff, so to go 7-4 and 6-1 in the conference, it's a big win for us." said ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill, "We had to a couple of things. Stop the run, affect the QB by batdowns pressures and sacks, and reroute them on the back end to disrupt their receiver routes. I was proud of our offense for sticking it in and it was a team win."
McNeill talked after the game about what the seventh win does for his
blossoming program in Greenville.
"I'm proud, I really am proud of our team and where we are program wise. We're developing depth. We're not there yet. We still have to keep developing our kids here and keep recruiting like we are and keep developing our schemes, but I'm proud of the team intangible wise. The no ego the no entitlement and the fact that our players believe in our coaches."
Ryan Griffin found Xavier Rush for a touchdown to open the scoring for the Green Wave, 7-0 with 7:12 to go in the first quarter. ECU was unable to score on three straight possessions to open the game.
The Pirate finally got on the scoreboard on the first play of the second quarter when quarterback Shane Carden hit Justin Hardy for a 7 yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
A Cairo Santos field goal gave Tulane the lead once again at the 5:44 mark in the second quarter.
Carden and East Carolina(7-4) struck right back on a play action quarterback keeper up the middle to give the Pirates their first lead of the game with 2:48 before halftime.
The Pirate defense was able to stop Tulane on the subsequent drive and ECU was driving toward another score before halftime when Shakiel Smith intercepted Carden and took it all the way back into ECU territory. Santos connected on a 43 yard field goal for a 14-13 lead
as time expired in the first half.
For most of the third quarter, ECU enjoyed an eight point lead at 21-13 courtesy of a Reggie Bullock 3 yard score on a student body left. That gave the Pirates. a 21-13 lead.
Santos hit his 20th straight field goal for the Green Wave from 26 yards out to reduce East Carolina's lead to 21-16.
Tay Cooper and Reggie Bullock carried ECU right down the field behind the Pirates' big offensive line in the final seven minutes of the game into the Green Wave redzone. Carden found Andrew Bodenheimer for an 11 yard touchdown to push ECU's lead to 28-16 with 4:29 to go.
But Tulane wasn't done yet. Griffin connected with Wilson Van Hooser
in the back of the ECU endzone for a 31 yard touchdown with 1:22 left
to cut the Pirates' lead to 28-23.
The Green Wave set up the onside kick but Andrew Bodenheimer was there with the good hands team to gobble up the kick. East Carolina took a knee and ran out the clock for their 7th victory of the season.
Ryan Griffin completed 35 of 56 pass attempts for 283 yards and two touchdowns for Tulane(2-9) who had 302 yards in total offense for the day. The Pirates tallied 386 yards of total offense including 283 yards through the air.