Drowining Out the Positive Noise

GREENVILLE, N.C. — ECU is avoiding all the positive attention that came with its road win at Virginia Tech as it prepares for North Carolina.

The East Carolina football team has been drowning out a different kind of noise this week ahead of its showdown with North Carolina at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Saturday.

As a result of their road victory over nationally ranked Virginia Tech, the Pirates are the toast of college football and have been mentioned by a handful of television analysts and reporters as maybe the top team in a non-power five conference.

Senior quarterback Shane Carden shined before a national audience with his 427 passing yards and three touchdowns against coordinator Bud Foster’s talented Hokie defense and, in doing so, garnered a lot of positive attention for the Pirates.

But in the immediate aftermath of one of the program’s benchmark victories, Carden remembered that many of the people who are patting him — and the Pirates, collectively — on the back now, are the same people who were saying negative things when he struggled.

“(Coach Ruffin McNeill) told me this two years ago, ‘when you win, they want you to write a book. When you lose, they question whether you can read one,’” Carden said. “I think it’s harder this way when you start hearing how good you are from everyone.”

One year ago, the Pirates were positioned on the opposite end of the spectrum entering their meeting with the Tar Heels. Their offense had sputtered in a home game against Virginia Tech — a 15-10 loss — and ECU was not given much of a realistic chance of winning in Chapel Hill, where it had not won in 38 years.

However, two weeks later, the Pirates were dominant and rolled up the Tar Heels for 603 yards on 99 offensive plays in a 55-31 rout at Kenan Stadium. Carden accounted for six touchdowns (three passing, three rushing) and threw for 376 yards.

“It was a big win for us and it was fun to look back after the season at that victory,” Carden said. “Obviously, this year is going to be a lot different. It’s a much different team, we’re a different team and they are going to fired up to play us in our stadium.”

For many Tar Heels, the memory of that game is seared into their memory banks to be reused this week as fuel for Saturday’s matchup in Greenville as they search for revenge.

We’ve always talk about it as a defense about what happened at the ECU game,” said UNC defensive lineman Ethan Farmer. “This game is big for us.”

Defensive back Tim Scott added, “It was very embarrassing. We played horrible at home and we kind of embarrassed the program.”

The idea that ECU would have a letdown — similar to the one Virginia Tech had last weekend after its road victory at Ohio State — against UNC is almost beyond comprehension considering all the “little brother-big brother” narratives the matchup has been tagged with and the animosity that exists between the two fan-bases.

The Pirates are now faced with the challenge of maintaining the same fire and edge that has made them successful while playing as an underdog. After Las Vegas odds makers opened up with UNC as a two-point favorite, the line quickly shifted and currently favors ECU by a field goal.

Rest assured, junior inside linebacker Zeek Bigger laughed at the notion that there could be a letdown this weekend.

“I would say the Pirates are going to come out and play football. Don’t worry about us,” he said.

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