08/31/13 — East Carolina wins opener over ODU

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East Carolina wins opener over ODU

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 31, 2013 11:46 PM

GREENVILLE -- No matter the opponent, East Carolina seems to find itself in a shootout every time it steps onto the football field these days.

Shane Carden wouldn't have it any other way.

Neither would Justin Hardy.

They each turned in a record-setting performance during the Pirates' 52-38 triumph over pesky FCS member Old Dominion at Bagwell Field inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday evening. ECU won a season-opening contest for the fifth time in its last six tries.

Carden completed 46 of 54 passes for 447 yards -- breaking his own single-game school record of 429 set a year ago in a double-overtime win over Marshall. Hardy matched his single-game record for receptions (16) and surpassed his single-game career yardage (191), but did not haul in a single touchdown pass on the night.

That distinction belonged to three other receivers. Davon Grayson, a freshman, grabbed three of Carden's five TD strikes. Danny Webster and Isaiah Jones logged one TD reception apiece from Carden, who spread the wealth among 10 receivers.

Two fortunate bounces also aided the Pirates' cause.

Ty Holmes' 26-yard fumble return for a touchdown extended ECU's advantage to 28-17 just 51 seconds into the third quarter. The score came after the Pirates had recorded a touchdown as time expired.

Leading 28-24 midway through the third quarter, Jimmy Booth smothered a rolling pigskin inside the goal line after Vintavius Cooper fumbled. The Monarchs again climbed to within four points, but couldn't get the defensive stop they needed to open their season with a signature win.

ECU did.

The Pirates forced a punt around the 11-minute mark of the fourth quarter and marched downfield. Carden's 1-yard TD pass to Grayson gave East Carolina its biggest lead, 49-31.

Monarch quarterback Taylor Heinicke proved elusive all evening. The reigning Walter Payton Award winner, the FCS equivalent to the Heisman Trophy, constantly stretched the Pirates' defense all evening. A junior, Heinicke completed 38 of 51 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns.

As long as Heinicke stays healthy, Old Dominion (0-1 overall) should experience a smooth transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision next season. The Monarchs will join Conference USA in 2014.