Four Downs: ECU-UNC
The Pirates captured a program-defining 70-41 victory over in-state opponent North Carolina Saturday. Here are my four downs from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium: FIRST DOWN: TOP 25 VOTERS, ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? East Carolina knew it had captured the nation’s attention after defeating a ranked Virginia Tech team in Blacksburg last week. Everyone that surrounded the program told players and coaches how good they were all week long and when it became time to play — the Pirates showed up once again and exceeded expectations. Three plays from scrimmage, true freshman receiver Trevon Brown sprinted past the Tar Heels’ secondary and hauled in a 55-yard touchdown catch to energize the record 51,082 fans at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and put the Pirates on top in the first minute of the game. But the paid attendance was just the beginning for records set on Saturday night. The Pirates rolled up a school-record 789 yards, which are the most UNC has ever allowed in a single game, and averaged 8.1 yards per play on their way to a Dowdy-Ficklen record (for ECU points scored) 70 points. Quite simply, Lincoln Riley’s offense could not be stopped. Shane Carden was 30-for-48 on his passes for 438 yards and four touchdowns — while rushing for two more — and senior running back Breon Allen supplied a career-best 211 yards on the ground with two touchdowns. With back-to-back wins against teams ranked in the Coaches Poll and a respectable performance in defeat at South Carolina, common sense suggests ECU would find its named included on the national polls for the first time since being ranked No. 15 in 2008. However, ECU players and coaches have avoided talking about rankings this week and instead adapted the approach of letting their play on the field speak for itself. After Saturday’s win, the message was loud and clear: the Pirates belong with the “big boys” of college football. SECOND DOWN: ‘LITTLE BROTHER’ REIGNS SUPREME Even in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s rout, UNC quarterback Marquise Williams still labeled a win against the Tar Heels as the Pirates’ “Super Bowl” and that is to be expected from the flagship state-school, which sits in a “Power Five” conference. After all, prior to 2013, UNC owned a 12-2-1 edge in the all-time series between the schools. Those little brother narratives should be silenced — or at least diminished until they are next scheduled to meet again in 2018 — now that the Pirates have won at both Kenan Memorial Stadium and Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium by an average of 26.5 points per game in the last two seasons. “I’ve always been a little brother in my family and I know what’s it’s like to get beat up by the old guys,” Carden said. “To beat them, it’s always a little sweeter.” ECU has now won four consecutive games against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents, dating back to last year’s 55-31 victory in Chapel Hill. THIRD DOWN: NO WORTHY, NO PROBLEM ECU senior receiver Cam Worthy was expected to be a key piece in Riley’s offensive game plan this week after his career-high 224 receiving yards on six catches at Virginia Tech. However, just before kickoff, the Pirates announced in a press release that he would be suspended two games as a result of a school student code of conduct violation that stemmed off a “late summer verbal disagreement between Worthy and another male student on campus.” Brown was awarded his first collegiate start and shined; scoring his third and fourth career touchdowns against the Tar Heels and racking up 117 yards on five catches. He didn’t just make an impact in the vertical game, though. On Allen’s 75-yard run that set up a Carden touchdown run, Brown matched his running back stride for stride on the sideline while blocking downfield and his teammates have taken notice of his efforts. “We’ve had guys not able to play last year with injuries and deals. And every time somebody goes out, I think we do a great job of next man standing up and making plays,” Carden said. “Trevon has made some great plays this year and him getting the start, I know it meant a lot to him and he did a great job.” FOURTH DOWN: PIRATES STILL LOOKING FOR MORE Despite all the yardage and records ECU gained and the wide margin it won by, several Pirates said afterward that they expected to continue getting better and to do more offensively as the season goes on. “For me — it was just how I was raised — I’m looking for improvement in all areas of the team,” Fifth-year ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said. “The kids will find things that they need to work on, you watch.” Carden added, “I think if that’s the best game we play, I’ll be disappointed. I think this offense can really execute at a higher level.” That comment, in and of itself, is a scary thought for defensive coordinators everywhere.
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