Looking forward to being back at Carter-Finley, playing against a good team. Scoring 50 points a game here in their last four games. Quarterback, Carter, playing at an extremely high level, 75% completion rate. Hardy at receiver is over a thousand yards. So an explosive offense, veteran defense. Seven seniors and two juniors.
Playing them at a time when they're playing well. A chance for us to come home and play for our seniors for two weeks. That's where our focus is, is trying to find a way to close out one of these fourth-quarter games that we've been in, get a good taste back in our mouth, continue to talk about building the program, being positive, fighting to the finish, and honoring our seniors here as we close it out.
With that, I'll open it up for any questions.
You had a rivalry game with North Carolina, which is obviously the big one. Over the years East Carolina State has been a pretty significant rivalry game. Do you see that around the program, with your players and fans, the hunger to win this game?
Yeah, you do. With our guys, we've talked about the history of the game, some of the great moments on both sides. We know what it means from a lottery standpoint. Also my background, coming from a mid-major, being at a very good mid-major, talking about how important beating teams that were in a BCS conference is for your program.
I know what they're saying at that school. Those things have been talked about here.
We feel like we have a lot to prove, probably more than them to be honest with you. It's a game that means a lot for a lot of reasons.
You talked about honoring your seniors by finishing strong. Sometimes when the season gets away from you, like this one has, the seniors are the toughest to keep on point because they don't have a future to play for. Do you detect your seniors still buying in, still focused?
Yes. I don't feel like they have nothing to play for. All these guys are playing for the university. They know what State has done for them. We've talked about that. They also have ambitions of playing at the next level. Nobody at the next level wants a kid that quits, I can tell you that. They've got a lot to play for.
They're ranked eighth in the country passing offense.
Shane Carden threw five touchdown passes last week. What do you see that makes them so good? What enables them to click so well? Describe their offense, what they do.
Well, they've been in the system there for a while, so there's continuity, familiarity, not only with the system and the coaching, but the players they're playing with. They've stayed healthy as a football team for the most part. I think that helps. As you're starting to have success, playing with the same guys over a long period of time, that helps you.
As far as their system, four-wides, they'll get into some two-backs with wide receivers. Up-tempo, screens, shovel passes, vertical passes. They try to find a way to get the ball to No. 2, to Hardy. He's a play-maker, very good punt returner as well.
Just efficient. When I was at Kansas, we played Mike Leach at Texas Tech. Lot of similarity in the pass game. The run game has developed a lot for them. I think they've tried to become more of a balanced team. You can see that with last week's game plan when they ran for over 200 yards. They do a very nice job. Their offensive line knows the ball is coming out. They get in the way, do a nice job of protecting their quarterback.
Also the past couple years, while they've moved the ball really well, their defense has been really poor. This year they're ranked 15th in the country in total defense. Is that more of a big factor of the experience that you were talking about?
Yes. Look, when Ruffin got there four or five years ago, so these guys are four, five, three-year starters. There's seven seniors on this defense. Behind that you have two juniors. So nine of these guys are guys that have been in the system for three to four years. Our guys have been in the system nine months. You know what I mean? There's a huge difference there.
You can see the growth of their defense, the package has evolved, they're able to carry a lot of things because of that, because of the time on task with those kids that they've had. I think they've got some personnel that's playing really well. No.56 for them is a terrific pass-rusher, plays extremely hard. They've done a nice job schematically of leveraging the football and tackling in space.
Two wide receivers. Rashard Smith threw a touchdown pass, caught a touchdown pass last week. Can you talk about him, how versatile that is.
Rashard is a play-maker. He's played DB before. We call him a football player. Wherever you put him, he makes plays.
He returns punts. He's the leading punt returner in the conference. Two touchdowns doing that. He was a high school quarterback. He's able to be in the pocket, throw the football, throw pass, not panic. He's got good feet. When he catches the football, he's dangerous. With those jets, he can cut, make people miss.
He just plays really hard. He plays bigger than he is.
Jumichael Ramos, he had a big game. Hadn't noticed him much before. Maybe my fault. Seems like he had a breakout game for him.
If you watched his whole season, he's had one or two third-down catches per game. A lot of them have been acrobatic catches. He had a huge one in the Clemson game. He had two fourth-down catches I believe in that game.
He's gotten better each week. He's learning how to play at this level. The offense is not something that he has to think about anymore. He just lines up and plays.
But he's a tough kid. He comes from a very good program, Lovejoy High School in Atlanta. He was coached hard down there. He's very physical.