11/25/12 — Pirates earn share of CUSA East Division championship

View Archive

Pirates earn share of CUSA East Division championship

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 25, 2012 1:52 AM

GREENVILLE -- Senior day?

Shane Carden must have gotten confused.

The East Carolina freshman quarterback had a career day to remember, throwing for 439 yards and rushing for the game-winning touchdown in a 65-59, double-overtime thriller over Marshall at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

The Pirates (8-4 overall) shared the Conference USA East Division championship with UCF, which advances to the title game since it beat ECU earlier this season. The Golden Knights face Tulsa for the CUSA crown and Liberty Bowl berth next Saturday.

"I was proud of the guys," third-year Pirates' head coach Ruffin McNeill said. "The first word that comes to mind about these kids is heart. I love their heart. They kept fighting. Marshall came back, which we expected.

"We withstood and came together, and won the football game."

ECU and Marshall, which needed a win to become bowl eligible, combined to record the highest-scoring game in CUSA history. The Pirates' Justin Hardy hauled in a career-best 16 passes for 171 yards, while the Herd's Tommy Shuler finished the season with 110 receptions -- the second-most in CUSA history.

"Justin had some huge catches," McNeill said. "He's a big-time football player. He's an all-conference player, an All-American candidate. He played banged up and knicked up."

Marshall rallied for 17 fourth-quarter points, including a 51-yard scoring run by third-string quarterback Blake Frohnapfel after he replaced injured starting quarterback Rakeem Cato. Cato ended the day 31 of 40 for 318 yards and five touchdowns.

Down 52-45 with less than two minutes remaining, Carden directed an 11-play, 76-yard drive that ended on his 6-yard touchdown pass to Danny Webster with four seconds left in regulation. Warren Harvey's PAT forced overtime.

Carden's 25-yard pass to Andrew Bodenheimer gave ECU a lead on the first play of overtime. The Thundering Herd responded with Frohnapfel's 4-yard touchdown pass to Antavious Wilson after Essray Taliaferro converted a fourth-and-1 with a 4-yard run.

Darrell Johnson recovered a Marshall fumble in the second overtime. Carden's second effort on a 1-yard touchdown plunge gave the Pirates an eight-win season for the first time since 2009.

Carden accounted for six touchdowns and 457 yards of total offense on the day.

"I thought Shane did a good job," McNeill said. "I thought he did a good job of holding Marshall. As Shane gets a little bit older, you'll see different looks (from opposing teams). I thought he held up well, no interceptions.

"I'm proud of Shane and how he's come along all season."

The teams combined for just three turnovers, 17 third-down conversions and 1,188 yards of total offense on an exhausting 186 plays.

ECU leads the all-time series 10-4-0, including two overtime wins.