HATTIESBURG, MISS. - Quarterback Shane Carden passed for one touchdown and ran for another while Montrese Overton scooped up a
Anthony Alford fumble for a 26-yard touchdown as ECU heated up in the third quarter to beat Southern Miss 24-14 at The Rock on Saturday.
The Pirates, down 7-3 at intermission gained initial momentum in the second half when Carden connected on his first career collegiate touchdown on a 55-yard strike to sure handed Justin Hardy. Hardy took off down the right sideline with 5:18 left in the third quarter for the score. That gave ECU their first lead of the game at 10-7. All part of an 84-yard drive in four plays for ECU.
Just three minutes later, Carden faked a handoff and bootlegged to the left for a wide open 9-yard touchdown scamper. Warren Harvey's extra point put ECU up 17-7.
On the ensuing drive, ECU linebacker Montese Overton scooped up Southern Miss quarterback Anthony Alford's fumble and returned for a 26-yards score as ECU went up 24-7. Overton had ten tackles to lead all Pirate defenders in his first start. Butkus Award nominee Jeremy Grove turned in another stellar performance with nine tackles while Damon Magazu tallied six stops from his free safety position.
Brian Mitchell's 3-4 defense capitalized on three USM turnovers in the second half and stopped Southern Miss on fourth-and-1 at the ECU 16-yard line. That was big for the Pirates.
Hardy led all Pirate receivers with five catches for 91 yards while Andrew Bodenheimer hauled in three important catches for 40 yards on the day.
The Pirates defense, who played solid for most of the day, were looking for the blowout late in the third quarter. But the Pirates dropped a sure interception on the next possession that bounced into Montese Tripplet's hands for a Southern Miss first down. That kept the drive alive.
Southern Miss(0-2/0-1 C-USA) advanced the football into the Pirate redzone for their only touchdown of the second half with just over two minutes to go in the quarter. Quarterback Chris Campbell tossed the football down the middle of ECU secondary to Tripplet for an 8-yard touchdown with 14 minutes to play. Corey Acosta's PAT cut the lead to 24-14.
Campbell, who started in the game one loss at Nebraska, did not start in the ECU game. Campbell was inserted into the game in the second half in relief of the freshman (Alford) who scored the only touchdown of the first half on a one-yard run.
Anthony Alford threw an interception and two fumbles on the first three Golden Eagle drives of the second half.
The Golden Eagles cut the lead to ten, but that was as close as they would get as East Carolina (2-1/1-0 C-USA) salted away the victory and ran out the clock late in the fourth quarter for their second victory of the season.
With the victory, ECU collected their 400th all-time win in football. It was an important Conference USA road victory and only the eleventh win for the Pirates in the all-time series against Southern Miss against 27 losses.
The Pirate defense came up big when it counted and put considerable pressure on the Southern Miss quarterbacks for much of the day. An effort that included six sacks for negative 44 yards.
After the game, East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill talked about coming out in the second half and trying to get off to a quick start to turn momentum their way.
"We talked about starting fast, sustaining it and finishing it," said the third year Pirate head coach. "The guys did a good job and The Rock is tough. We've been road warriors for two weeks (with their third road game in a row coming next week in Chapel Hill against North Carolina). Getting a win here was big for us."
Warren Harvey's 54-yard field goal was the only score of the first half for the Pirates.
Carden hit on 48 percent of his passes in his first start, going 13 of 27 for 166 yards with a touchdown pass and another on the ground.
East Carolina ran the football 30 times in the contest, led by freshman Vintavious Cooper who had 49 yards on 13 carries.
Trent Tignor kept the Pirates in good shape punting wise with high kicks, punts that were downed deep in the Southern Miss redzone and a rugby kick late in the contest that backed the Golden Eagles up. That made life a little more difficult for USM to score points in the second half.
Desmond Johnson led the Golden Eagle rushing attack with 77 yards on 13 carries while quarterback Anthony Alford ran for 49 yards in the first half on 19 attempts.
Chris Campbell hit on 11 of 21 through the air for 145 yards and a touchdown. Southern Miss had 357 yards of total offense including 124 on the ground while limiting ECU to 257 yards of total offense.
Southern Miss committed seven penalties on the day to four for ECU.