After a senior night loss at home on a Hail Mary pass, players weren’t interested in personal stats, but instead their desire to win the game. But taking a step back over the next few weeks and soaking in personal achievements will be something that East Carolina players reminisce upon before leaving the program.
ECU Head Coach Ruffin McNeill can agree with his players because the one thing he has preached above and beyond is the team concept. The players’ commitment to the team concept is something that is talked about in college football, but not always lived out on the field. For ECU, it is a cornerstone of McNeill’s teaching foundation.
“What this group of seniors have done and what this team has done this year is not going to be defined by that one play,” said McNeill. “This team has another game and opportunity to show their resiliency.”
Thursday night was indicative of that notion, as quarterback Shane Carden couldn’t care less of his own accolades and achievements.
“I would have rather thrown 5 yards and won the game,” said the Houston native.
In the heat of the moment, Carden may not care about passing Peyton Manning’s career yards mark at Tennessee, but give it a few days and his accomplishments should certainly outweigh the faults he has experienced throughout his time at ECU.
“When we take a step back and relax, which will be hard,” said McNeill. “I think we will see a lot of stats like that.”
McNeill later added that he believed Carden was probably thinking about the team after the game. The fifth-year head coach knew where his quarterback’s mind was at and it goes without saying the impact McNeill has had on his players and their thought process.
Carden, as of Saturday afternoon, is second in FBS for passing yards and is 35 yards behind Brandon Doughty from Western Kentucky. The Texas gunslinger will have his chance to cement his name at the top of the season passing list if given the opportunity.
Justin Hardy had another 100-yard receiving game and added another 12 catches to his FBS record. Hardy, like Carden, has broken numerous records during his time at ECU. With one more game on the schedule, he could move into uncharted territory.
With 4,381 receiving yards in his career, Hardy sits 6th on the FBS all-time list. With one game left to play, Hardy should jump into the top five and realistically could get to 3rd. The Vanceboro native is 33 yards from the top five and with another UCF-esque performance (140 yards) he would end his career with 4,521 yards, an incredible feat.
With one touchdown, Hardy will pass NFL Pro-bowler Larry Fitzgerald and Emmanual Sanders in touchdowns (34). Hardy has notched 16 100-plus yard games in his career and seven of those came this season.
As a wide receiver, the one thing you want to be known as is reliable. Nothing says that more than having three or more receptions in all 48 of his career games and possibly a 49th including the upcoming bowl game. Over 25 percent of his games (14), he has registered double-digit catches.
All of these statistics are impressive to any person, especially remembering that the 6-foot 180-pound receiver was a walk-on to begin his career. In his 11 games against a Power 5 conference opponent, Hardy averaged 7 catches and 71.2 yards per game. Hardy also leads the nation in receptions per game (9.2) this season.
Warren Harvey, ECU kicker and Greenville native, has had an up and down career for the Pirates. But, at the end of the day, he is the all-time scoring leader for ECU. The kicker passed Ben Hartman with a field make at the end of the first half against Central Florida. His 289 points for his career eclipsed Ben Hartman's all-time record of 288. With one more game, Harvey has 292 points and also holds records for PAT kicks made (166) and attempted (169).
Offensive Coordinator Lincoln Riley’s offense has been called the Air Raid, but in reality, it is an offense that hasn’t been seen often. With a unique offense that incorporates the run as well as the up-tempo passing game. Breon Allen, like Vintavious Cooper, has been an important cog to Riley’s offense. With 131 yards in the bowl game, Allen could break the 1,000-yard mark, which has happened in the last two seasons.
ECU seniors have accounted for 31 wins in four years and possibly a 32nd is on its way for this group of players. After getting over the sting of a senior night loss at the hands of a Hail Mary, ECU players should sit back and think of what accomplishments they have achieved.