Carden approaching ECU greats

Shane Carden's performance this season is putting him on the level of East Carolina greats such as Dominique Davis and Jeff Blake.

East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden has done some remarkable things this season and his numbers are reflecting it. With three games left in the season and probable trips to the Conference-USA Championship and a bowl game, he still has plenty of time to shine.

With up to five games left on the schedule, Carden is poised to make statistical feats made by ECU greats such as Dominique Davis and Jeff Blake.

"It's awesome," said Carden. "I don't really know what records I'm close to. I don't really want to know! Those are kinds of things I look back—after my season, after my career—and kind of look back at it. Just being named with some of those guys is a really cool feeling."

Most recently against Tulsa, Carden threw for 384 yards and accounted for all seven of ECU's offensive touchdowns. That was enough to earn him C-USA Player of the Week for the third time this season.

Carden attributed his recognition to all the weapons he has out there on offense. Of course, receivers are important to the success of the quarterback, but Carden wouldn't get far without a skilled offensive line.

"We just try to provide Shane and the running back corps with enough time to do what they have to do for us to be successful as an offense and as a team," said offensive lineman Ike Harris. "We just want to provide Shane with enough time in the passing game so he can make the reads he needs to make and get the ball to the receiver he's trying to get it to."

The offensive line has been especially important when it comes to Carden's rushing touchdowns. Each of his seven rushing touchdowns—two of which were from last week's game versus Tulsa—have been one-yard sneaks into the end zone.

Of course, Carden's ability to target each of his receivers down field has played an important role in his success, too. Just like the offensive line, ECU's receivers are another set of weapons Carden has out there at his disposal.

"He communicates with us in all different ways," said receiver Reese Wiggins. "Each one of us has different personalities and different things we do well and things we kind of struggle with. He just adapts to each one of us and keeps us motivated and ready to play."

It's not just the receivers that Carden targets in the air, though. This season has seen ECU's offense incorporate running back Vintavious Cooper in the passing game.

Part of Cooper's involvement in the passing game is in the game plan while part of it has to do with what the defense gives the Pirates. With experience at the quarterback position in junior college, Cooper understands what it takes for Carden to excel.

"It takes a lot," said Cooper. "It takes a lot of practice to be able to control the ball. People really underestimate how tough it is to throw the ball a good 30 or 40 times a game and be able to come back and do the same thing week after week."

His past experience as quarterback has helped him get more involved in the passing game, too.

"It definitely helps me see the field better," said Cooper. "Knowing how the defense is basically trying to dictate the offense…as a receiver and a running back, it makes it easier when you've played the quarterback position and you know what tendencies different people have on the field and know which ways you need to move when you have the ball in your hand."

Carden amassed seven total scores against Tulsa: five in the air and two on the ground. That wasn't an isolated event, either. Carden accounted for six touchdowns against North Carolina and four against Southern Miss.

"I don't think a touchdown will ever seem routine to me," said Carden. "Each one is special in its own way and hopefully it continues to feel that way."

Five more touchdowns will tie Carden with Blake's 28 touchdown season in 1991. At this pace, it's plausible for Carden to even catch up to Davis, who was a sort of mentor to Carden early on, and his 37 touchdown season in 2010.

"Dominique, I was here with him," said Carden. "I kind of learned a little from him while he was here…Leadership. There were times in the season that the team or the games were going away. The way he was handling it, the way he led the team, the way he continued to step up when times were rough was something I learned from him."

Carden still has two years of eligibility. At this rate, there's no reason to believe he won't develop into one of the best quarterbacks to come through ECU.

"Like Shane would probably say, he's progressing toward there," said head coach Ruffin McNeill. "He'll get better each day. He's like a lot of our seniors and core leaders. He's self-motivated and never satisfied."

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